AMURT started working in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, in late 2010. We decided to focus on the health sector, as the indicators for maternal and child mortality are among the highest in the world.
Initially, we launched a primary healthcare initiative in Ebonyi State, the least developed state in the south of the country, joining forces with Action Aid Nigeria, the local government, and the communities we would be partnering with, to open three rural health centers. The initial vision of the health centers, based on community ownership and management, came from local women’s associations.
AMURT provided furniture, medical equipment, supplies and drugs for each center, and financed the construction of bathrooms and latrines. In addition, with our partner, we started intensive advocacy to pressure the government to assume responsibility. Once the local head of the health department pledged her support the government agreed to assign health workers to the facilities.
The three health centers at Omege, Ephenium and Offia Oji were officially opened by Her Excellency, the First Lady of Ebonyi State , on November 24th. The opening ceremony was well covered by local and national media. Now they are attracting a lot of people, especially the most remote one at Offia Oji. In fact, to accommodate the demand for both inpatient and outpatient services, AMURT will build an additional three rooms there.
AMURT uses WHO’s ‘Continuum of Care’ model for maternal, newborn and child health that includes integrated service delivery for mothers and children from pregnancy to delivery, for the immediate postnatal period, and through childhood. The Continuum of Care recognizes that safe childbirth is critical to the health of both the woman and the newborn child—and that a healthy start in life is an essential step towards a sound childhood and a productive life.
As well as clinical services, our programs include supplementary training for the health workers, extensive health education in the thirty-four villages in the project area, and community outreach programs. Within the program’s year time frame we expect to transform the initial three centers into models and then replicate the model in a further ten rural locations in the state. Our work will also extend to rural water supply and sanitation.
For the first time in West Africa we are broadening our community-based approach to include local government and NGO partners. By strengthening their capacities we are improving the long-term sustainability of the program. It’s overwhelmingly clear to us that through partnership we can accomplish things that we could never achieve working separately.