In this interview with the director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, she details what her organisation is doing to ensure that the Safe Birth Initiative (SBI) is sustained across the public hospitals and medical facilities nationwide to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria. CHIMA AKWAJA brings the excerpts.
What are your goals and the funding mechanism for the Safe Birth Initiative?
Coca-Cola Nigeria has launched the Safe Birth Initiative (SBI), a sustainability initiative to help Nigerian healthcare providers reduce the high rate of maternal and neonatal mortality. This is in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in relation to new-born and maternal mortalities.
The $10.8m purchase of maternal and neonatal equipment will fully equip hospitals across selected (15) public hospitals.
In partnership with the Office of the Special Assistant to the President on SDGS (Federal Ministry of Health) and Medshare International, an international NGO based in the US, the initiative was launched in 2018. SBI’s goal is to reduce mother and infant deaths by equipping neonatal units at over 10 hospitals and Federal Medical Centres in Nigeria with the necessary infrastructures to facilitate safe deliveries and post-delivery care.
Over 56,000 families have been impacted by the initiative, providing professional medical care – in personnel and equipment – to over 21,000 mothers. To ensure the best utilisation and maintenance of the equipment, Coca-Cola Nigeria also donated medical equipment.
Training is provided with the goal of promoting a maintenance culture, and rehabilitation of old medical equipment. We are also helping to reduce downtime at various Nigerian medical facilities.
The SBI’s impact can be seen across Nigeria in terms of its geographical distribution. The SBI has had an impact on many medical facilities, including the Federal Medical Center, Ebute-Metta and the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital. Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Wesley Guild Hospital Ilesha and Abuja National Hospital. There are more hospitals under construction.
Which contributions will you make this year to this initiative?
We are pleased with the SBI’s impact and will continue to support Nigeria’s healthcare system. To achieve this goal, we will donate more high-tech medical equipment to more FMCs and teaching hospitals in Nigeria, as well as build capacity for biomedical engineering and end users to ensure the equipment is up to date.
Some countries, such as Nigeria, need to get serious about reducing maternal and neonatal mortality. Experts estimate that Nigeria’s infant mortality rate is 58.23 per 1,000 births. This could be due to a variety of factors, including asphyxia, premature births, congenital anomalies and a lack of neonatal care facilities in Nigerian hospitals.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “The most common causes of maternal death and injury are high blood pressure, excessive blood loss, infection and unsafe abortions, along with indirect causes like anemia, malaria and heart disease.” A skilled healthcare professional in a supportive setting can prevent most maternal deaths.
This is partly why the Coca-Cola System has devoted so much effort to curb this threat through the SBI. This is because UNICEF states that Nigeria contributes 10 per cent of the global neonatal mortality rate (currently 576 deaths per 100,000 live births). We give priority to this. UNICEF states that Nigeria’s neonatal mortality rate is currently at 56.220 per 1000 live births. This represents a 2.57 per cent decrease from 2021.
What is the ultimate goal of the SBI?
We are determined to achieve our core objective of making sure that no family ever loses a mother or newborn-child because of the absence of equipment during critical stages of delivery, or due to a lack of lifesaving medical equipment in Nigerian healthcare institutions. Our goal is to make the maternal and child care programs in Nigeria sustainable. We will seek partnerships with donors and organizations like-minded to ensure that this program is sustainable and expand its reach. We believe that a network of partners will help us to future-proof our scheme and increase its impact.