Each year, hundreds of Nigerian women die from pregnancy-related causes and many experience life-threatening complications or severe maternal morbidity. It is with this in view that Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello, wife of the Executive Governor of Niger State launched the project close to her heart -Reproductive Rights, Advocacy, Safe Spaces and Empowerment – RAiSE last week. AMINA ALHASSAN writes.
Being the state’s number one lady, Hajiya Dr. Amina Sani Bello could have easily rested on her oars to enjoy the perks that come with her new position but she didn’t do that. As a medical doctor, shortly after her husband’s inauguration on 29th May 2015, Dr. Bello swung into action, visiting the female and paediatric wards at the General Hospital I Minna. She pledged to do her best as a consultant Gynaecologist to contribute to the treatment of women in the hospital.
She said, “My visit is to see how I can contribute to the society. That is what I do. I would like to contribute my own quota, visit some of these women, spend time with them, helping with their surgeries and deliveries. She said the hospital would see better services to improve the standard so as to reduce the death rate, especially the poor who cannot afford private hospital services or foreign medical bills.
It was in line with this that she embarked on launching her pet project, Reproductive Rights Advocacy, Safe Spaces and Empowerment (RAiSE) last week. She stated that the project was out to complement government’s effort hence the project had undertaken free VVF surgeries in Niger north as well as free cancer screening and other intervention programmes all over the state.
Prior to the launch, Governor Sani Bello’s efforts towards improving the Healthcare system in the state saw the Maternal and the Neonatal wing of the Minna General Hospital being renovated and will be completed soon; upgrading of seven rural hospitals to the status of general hospitals across the three zones of the State are also on-going.
The launch attracted dignitaries such as Nigeria’s First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, who emphasized the need for better maternal and infant health care.
Hajiya Buhari expressed delight with the framework of the Pet Project saying it was gratifying to note that the basis that informed the wife of the Niger state Governor to form the pet project was to enhance women and infant health.
She stated that it was a good development that women in Niger state were given access to cervical and Breast cancer screening by the project, adding that studies have shown that the best way to control the disease was through early detection.
The First lady also noted that the decision to provide both girl child and the boys alike transport to schools was gratifying because it will save their lives from being vulnerable to danger while trying to go to school.
She stated that the life expectancy in Nigeria should not be limited to 49 years as it is now and therefore challenged the women to continue to play a role as bridge builders in complementing men to cater for the need of the society.
Also speaking, former Head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), and Dr. Amina’s father, called on the people to support the initiative to be delivered in its designed framework for the health of the targeted group, putting into consideration the low- life expectancy in Nigeria. He said this while presenting the report of the research, stating that the report of the needs assessment led to the formation of the RAiSE foundation.
He stated that the research report which emphasized the need for a better maternal and infant health was a testimony of the intended sincerity of the wife of the Niger state governor to sustain the campaign and better infant and maternal health.
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who painted a sordid picture of the devastating effect of cervical and breast cancer stated that “what we are doing here today, the fund raising, launch and unveiling of this cancer screening centre is a testimony to all I have been saying. It is true that cancer still remains a global menace for us in Africa; our women suffer most from cancer related complications”.
“According to World Health Organization, breast cancer accounts for over 1million cases annually second to lung cancer, while cervical cancer contributes to approximately 470, 000 cases which mostly affects women,” the Governor decried.
Consequently, he assured that the health of Nigerlites has always been one area his administration is passionate about and therefore he would continue to support and partner with foreign and local NGOs as well as Medical Service Providers and other stakeholders for the delivery of qualitative healthcare services to the people.
Dr. Amina Abubakar who stated that launching the project was a way of contributing her quota to the administration of her husband said that findings in the state show that there was the need to step up access to screening of the two cancers and also strengthen referrals from primary to tertiary health care delivery.
Meanwhile, the project named Professor Debo Adeyemi as the Chairman, board of Trustees, with Hajiya Amina Kere Ahmed, Mohammed Datti Usman, Dr. Abbas Umar, Hajiya Dije Bala, Dr. Audu, Hajiya Saudatu Mahdi as members while Mrs Toyin Dawodu serves as the CEO.
The launching was well-attended by wives of the governors of Lagos, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Bauchi and Kaduna states. Those of Benue, Sokoto, Borno, Kwara, Adamawa, Imo, and Anambra states were also in attendance.
The amount realised was generous, with the highest donation of N15 million coming from Dangote Group. Col. Sani Bello, father of the governor, also donated N2million, while the Ahmadu Bello Foundation donated N1million.
According to her, “VVF is a terrible condition which usually affects women in the poor areas and because they are poor, it is difficult to get treatment. What we have done in collaboration with Sani Bello Foundation and Niger state government is to call Fistula surgeons who are experts in treating the diseases surgically so that those affected can have the surgery free and be integrated back into the society.”
Bello further said that she intends to open a VVF Centre in Niger State to address the backlog of women suffering from VVF who have not been treated, “Niger state have a pool of patients with VVF that have not been treated. So we are hoping of having a VVF Centre in the state but before the centre is up and running, we intend to conduct free surgical camps in the three senatorial zones in the state.”
She debunked the misconception that VVF is affected by teenage pregnancy and early motherhood saying that all those that registered for the camp were above 30 years, “this condition is not just in a situation where it is teenage pregnancy. It happens in a situation of the kind of healthcare that the expecting mother gets.”
The Governor’s wife then called on the government to improve the healthcare system to enable the women get access to ante-natal care and skilled birth attendants.
“We are trying to see how the government will ensure that our healthcare centres are able to provide 24 hours care in each ward. This will go a long way in assuring that women who are pregnant will have skilled birth attendants to attend to them.
Also as part of her efforts to put smile on the faces of the downtrodden and less privileged were given hopes by the first lady which must be emulated by privileged people in our society.