Toyin Ojora Saraki is the wife of the Senate President and Founder/ President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, an organisation with focus on maternal, newborn and child health. In this interview with DEBORAH OCHENI, Saraki highlights the need to strengthen Primary Health Care facilities and midwives as measures to keep mothers and babies safe
As the founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, how will you rate the achievements of the foundation so far?
I have been privileged to lead our home-grown wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) for over twelve years and in all our advocacy, healthcare and health promotion interventions, we have prioritised the importance of impact at the most basic level which is the community.
Our clients held personal health records (PHR) were developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, WHO, the Federal Ministry of Health, FMOH and other partners.
This booklet was influential in the roll out of midwives service scheme (MSS) many years ago reaching primary healthcare centers across Nigeria and placing the skilled midwives whose unique capacities I have committed to champion as a global ambassador for the public health solutions for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent health and nutrition through advocating for adoption of ICM’s Midwifery Service Framework.
What measures are the Foundation taking to keep mother and baby safe?
Our safe delivery kits, the now ubiquitous ‘mamakit’ helps to provide the essential tools to take a delivery, keeping mother and baby safe and healthy. Recently, we have deplored the ‘MamaCare’ Antenatal and postnatal programmes that helps health care facilities with health promotions and educational classes supporting expectant and new mothers through the life-changing experience of pregnancy and childbirth.
Through midwives, we ensure that our women are well informed and prepared and the programme has reached over 200,000 women across Nigeria in less than 18 months.
As we progress with hard work and all our collaborative efforts, we must ensure that midwives are central to our healthcare systems and that they are respected and given the correct salary and training; they must deserve the highest form of gratitude.
We must also strengthen our PHC system and reach our health budget goals in line with the Abuja declaration of 2001 which recommends at least 15 per cent of national budgets for health and the recent Addis Ababa Declaration. A stronger PHC and smarter budget spending will lead to a stronger, fairer and healthier society.
Recently, the World Bank and WHO endorsed the Wellbeing Foundation. What is the foundation doing to sustain the height in today’s changing world?
The World Bank and the WHO endorsed the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s Personal Health Records at the measurement and accountability for health summit in Washington DC including it in the roadmap document. We have gone further to develop other health stationary and digital tools for use in healthcare facilities.
As the chairperson of the 8th National Assembly’s Primary Health care Revitalisation Support Group, what is the progress so far in ensuring that the 2017 health budget works?
With regard to the advocacy to ensure that Nigeria’s health budgets function efficiently to deliver universal health coverage, UHC, the progress of the 8th National Assembly’s Primary Health Care Revitalisation Support Group (PHCRSG) as mandated by over 72 civil society organisations, CSOs and non-government organisations, NGO’s which I am very humbled and grateful to serve as chairperson and champion with Dr. Benjamin Anyene as Co-Chair, the membership of which in cludes the ‘ONE Campaign’ and many other highly respected organisation.
The PHCRSG group followed quickly after a public hearing convened by the National Assembly House of Representatives through its committee on health care service for the revitalisation of primary healthcare in Nigeria to avert the disaster in the health care sector of our dear country.
It is a task I take very seriously and I must commend every individual and cooperate support rendered so far. We have had several meetings and consultations with local and global stakeholders and development partners.
Why do you emphasise the need for strong PHCs in most of your campaigns?
One can’t help but reiterate the importance of PHCs in the delivery of health outcomes for our people, including strengthening health and health related systems.
We know that an efficient and effective PHC system is one that can cater to between 70 to 80 per cent of healthcare need of our people. Similarly, these PHCs will be close to the people’s living and working places in terms of locations.
We know that the battle to deliver UHC with quality, efficient care to keep our citizens well and strengthen largely absent referral systems to higher tiers when they are unwell, will be won or lost at the PHC level which is closest to the people.
How would you describe the activities of MamaYe since its inception in 2013?
I have been continuously inspired and moved by the progress that the ‘mamaYe’ campaign has made in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) cross Africa and I will like to implore us all draw upon the past successes to look confidently upon our future goals and aspirations with the most notable and pressing being improving the allocation, efficiency and accountability of health budget commitments and processes in Nigeria.