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Nigeria: New year, new commitment to save children’s lives

It was rainy when I visited Abuja, the capital of Nigeria six months ago to do some research and data analysis for a report we were supporting. Now it’s warm and sunny.  It’s not only the sun that’s reason to be happy about this visit though. I’m launching the revised edition of our report, Saving Newborn Lives in Nigeria, with colleagues.

Nearly a quarter of a million babies die in Nigeria each year — almost 3,000 per day. It has the highest number of newborn deaths in Africa. When this statistic was repeated to a room full of paediatricians today in Abuja, the room let out an agonized sigh. It was a sigh of frustration and desperation because every one in that room knew that these figures were not only unacceptable, but also largely preventable.  The key interventions to save newborn lives, such as providing skilled birth attendance, ensuring mothers attend antenatal and postnatal visit,s and exclusive breastfeeding among others are affordable.

We hope the report will not only raise awareness about the problem but, more importantly, make duty bearers commit to helping reduce newborn deaths in the country. We might have spent months  supporting the production of the report, but it’s not yet the end.  Now it’s about the government implementating the recommendations and we will work even harder to make sure that happens.

Thanks must go to the Nigerian Ministry of Health provided good leadership during the report-writing stage and experts from the National Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, as well as Save the Children staff in Nigeria, London, Cape Town and Washington DC who collaborated on this project.

This edition of the report contains new data for Nigeria and its 36 states. Various agencies also gave letters of commitments to help save children’s lives in the country. We were very lucky to have the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary launch our report in a big pediatric conference. We ran out of copies 15 minutes after we started distributing the report!

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