IWD 2024: Highlighting UNICEF’s Mama2Mama Initiative in strengthening community Health in Bauchi

Mama2Mama stakeholders session.
Mama2Mama stakeholders session.
IWD 2024: Highlighting UNICEF’s Mama2Mama Initiative in strengthening community Health in Bauchi

By Bashir Hassan Abubakar

As the World commemorates the 2024 International Women’s Day, positive contributions of Women in some critical sectors of human development was highlighted as a case study, to drum support and bring attention of Government at all levels to channel investment into Women.

To highlight the role of women in influencing positive attitudinal change geared towards better maternal newborn and child healthcare (MNCH) outcomes in Bauchi State, journalists and other stakeholders in the health sector recently held a dialogue in Gombe State.

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The objective of the media engagement was to expose journalists and other stakeholders, to the important role of women in enhancing health outcomes and also to explore avenues on how to amplify the role of women and gender equality in community health systems in Bauchi State.

The Media Dialogue, organized by UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field office, showcased the successes recorded by it’s Mama2Mama initiative. This initiative has improved health outcomes in the field office focused states of Gombe, Bauchi, and Taraba states.

The Mama2Mama initiative was conceived by UNICEF and , with support from other well meaning donors, the initiative was introduced in Bauchi state in 2021.

The initiative is a community-based organized groups of women who promote positive health-seeking behaviours including uptake of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) services at the community level.

The group works to enhance women’s involvement in health decision making and to strengthen linkages between communities and health facilities.

The choice of MNCH as core area of focus by these groups of over 6000 volunteer women spread across Bauchi State may not be unconnected with the disturbing statistics associated with MNCH in the State.

According to the current Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of 2021, delivery assisted by any skilled attendant in Bauchi State is only 17.4 percent, while antenatal care (ANC) (at least 4 visits) by any provider is 43.3 percent and ANC (at least 1 visit by skilled provider is 42.5 percent. The MICS 2021 also indicated that post natal health care check for mothers is 40.4 percent. The survey also revealed that, women aged 15-49 years who received appropriate care in Bauchi State are less than the Northeast region and National rates.

The survey further indicated that early childhood death rates are higher in Bauchi State compared to the rates for the north east and national rate of children dying.

As contained in the MICS 2021, under-five mortality per 1000 live birth is 153 which is above the national average of 102 and the entire north east that stands at 114. Child mortality rate in Bauchi State stand at 70 per 1000 live birth and infant mortality rate is 89 per 1000 live births. Post neonatal and neonatal mortality rates in Bauchi State are 43 and 45 per 1000 live births. (MICS 2021).

Though, these are the most current data, experts and other key stakeholders in the Health Sector believes that the ever growing population, of close to 7 million people , occasioned by immigrants from neighboring states, is confounding and overstretching the lean resources of the State Government for an effective and efficient health care services.

So, with the establishing of the well UNICEF-trained Mama2Mama Field Volunteers, it has succeeded in mobilization communities to access health care services, especially those in the hard-to-get rural areas, where over 75 percent of the maternal and child deaths occurs.

This much was acknowledged by the Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Bauchi Field Office, Dr. Tushar Rane in his welcome address at the Media Dialogue held in Gombe between 6th – 7th March, 2024, preparatory to the commemoration of 2024 IWD.

He said the International Women’s Day serves as a powerful reminder of the progress women made and the work that still lies ahead.

Dr. Rane specifically mentioned the remarkable achievements of Mama2Mama support group in the health sector in the field office states – Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba.

“These group of Women often act as health advocates and educators within their communities. They raise awareness about health issues and encourage community members to seek healthcare when needed.Their involvement fosters community cohesion and increases the effectiveness of health interventions.

“The investment in women through the mama2mama initiative, including strengthening women’s knowledge of community health systems has contributed to positive health outcomes in the field office focus states”, said Dr. Rane.

Sharing her thoughts on the Mama2Mama Initiative, Taraba State Primary Health Care Development Agency’s (TSPHCDA) Assistant State Health Educator Mrs. Jerusha Emmanuel said that the activities of Mama2Mama support group in Taraba State has tremendously improved health care outcomes especially in the rural areas.

Mrs. Emmanuel pointed out that the group are succeeding in creating demand for health care services through consistent awareness creation on MNCH based on one-on-one engagement with pregnant women, mothers and caregivers, stressing that, “There are positive attitudinal change in health seeking behaviors”.

Furera Aliyu is Member of Mama2Mama support group in Konkyel Community in Darazo Local Government Area of Bauchi State who said that though Mama2Mama support group is a volunteer job, that she finds joy in doing it.

“It is quite fulfilling to see positive changes in health seeking behaviour manifesting in households that one had interacted with.

“I want to use this medium to appeal to women to volunteer for such services when called upon to be part of such a noble course”, said Furera Aliyu.

Madam Poshiya Japheth, a member of the UNICEF Supported Mama2Mama support in Boh community of Shongom LG in Gombe State also shared her experience with Daily Chronicle saying that though the initiative is laudable, State and Local Governments can enhance the performance of the teams through adequate remuneration.

Madam Japheth said she is proud to be part of the Mama2Mama support group because she is touching the lives of her community in a very positive way.

For Hajiya Khadijah Salihu, the Bauchi State Technical Officer in the Gender Unit of the State Primary Health Care Development Agency, she appealed to caregivers and the community at large to support the support group in their respective homes when the teams visit their spouses for health talk.

Hajiya Salihu expressed her delight with UNICEF Bauchi Field Office for organising the media dialogue that brought together Journalists, State actors and the Mama2Mama support group drawn from Taraba, Bauchi Gombe and Plateau State.

“The Idea of showingcasing the laudable work of Mama2Mama support groups to commemorate the 2024 International Women Day has really boosted the morale of the Mama2Mama teams.

“It is my expectation that the dialogue will pave way for more investment in Women related activities, which is inline with this year’s IWD’s theme with the hashtag #Investment in Women
#She’s the solution.

“It is my candid belief that through innovative reports by Journalists, Government and other key non State actors will see the commendable effort of the Mama2Mama support group and make them pay attention on the need to invest more in such initiatives”, Khadijah Salihu.

A media participant from NTA Network Centre Jos, Ndeyang Andeyaba Gyang was equally excited being part the dialogue saying that her knowledge on the workings of Mama2Mama support group has been enhanced and will reflect on her reportage skills.
Gyang said that the media dialogue has further reinforced her stance as a social advocate propagating increased investment in Women.

She also pledged to mobilize her colleagues in Plateau State to replicate the Mama2Mama initiative in Plateau State.

“Such investments in Women will have a positive multiplier effect of strengthening community based health care system. Also, when you invest in women, you are investing in the entire community.

“I also want to suggest that the entire States of the federation should adopt the Mama2Mama initiative for a quality health care outcomes across the country”, said Gyang.

In one of his presentations during the media dialogue, health officer at the UNICEF Bauchi Field office , Oluseyi Olosunde said Mama2Mama support group was established into community sociocultural structure to improve knowledge, attitudes and practices on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescents Health +Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) among women through conduct of One-on-One Group Counseling and Support to Mothers on MNCH issues.

While acknowledging the role of women as social advocates, educators, and change agents, Olosunde said that, “ there is need for continuous support and involvement in empowering women to lead and participate in RMNCAH efforts for better health outcomes within communities”.

The health officer then urged participants to prioritize women’s leadership and involvement in RMNCAH planning, implementation and monitoring in their reportages to sustainable improvements in MNCH.

During the media dialogue, the Mama2Mama women support groups presented a drama depicting how they go about the enlightenment awareness at the community and household levels.

During the drama sessions, participants were made to understand that Mama2Mama support groups also trained women on life saving entrepreneurial skills in small enterprises to further improve women’s economic status.

At the end of the two days media dialogue, journalists from Bauchi also commits to advocate to the State Government to create a budget line to support the activities of Mama2Mama support groups.

The journalists further resolved to , at least pay visits to the groups during their quarterly meetings with a view to projecting the laudable activities they are carrying out.

On the part of UNICEF, the world body reiterated it’s commitment to all the necessary technical support to Government at all levels and community structures, to enhance the capacity of the Mama2Mama support groups.

As the world commemorate 2024 International Women’s Day today , it has become imperative for Government at all levels to invest and support women groups like Mama2Mama Support Initiative whom have clearly demonstrated their zeal, passion and commitment to changing the negative health indices that indicates high burden of maternal and child mortality and morbidity in our communities.

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