President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said the misfortune that befell his mother, Eunice, in the area of child rearing was one of the reasons why he is passionate about ending maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria.
He said although his mother gave birth to nine children, she saw seven of them dying helplessly at infancy leaving only him and his elder sister as her only surviving children.
He said he was committed to ensuring that Nigeria’s mother and children no longer lose their lives to preventable deaths.
Jonathan spoke during the inaguration of the Saving One Million Lives Programme of the Federal Government and the meeting of the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said his own survival could only be attributed to divine intervention.
The President said he was no longer comfortable seeing Nigerian women dying from complications from child birth while children also die of preventable diseases.
He said, “When it comes to the issue of maternal and infant mortality, I feel very passionate.
“I feel very passionate about child birth. My mother gave birth to nine of us but unfortunately, only my elder sister and I survived.
“My late siblings would have by now grown up to become very beautiful women and handsome men.
“Even my own survival was by chance. It is what people will call the hand of God, not human factor.”
The President said the programme that was inaugurated was aimed at saving one million women and children from death between now and 2015 when his first four-year tenure would end.
He said the Federal Government would spend $33.44m in the next four years for the procurement of additional reproductive health commodities, representing a 300 per cent domestic funding increase.
He added that $500m would be set aside over the next four years for maternal, new born and child health intervention under the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme.
This, he said, was in addition to the $68m set aside for polio and routine immunisation programme.
He said, “We have initiated the Saving One Million Lives Programme with the objective of saving one million lives by 2015 through equitable and concrete utilisation of quality cost-effective basic health services.
“The programme clearly identified the needs for concrete access and the appropriate use of medical devices and commodities that can save lives.
“Increased domestic funding for commodities is a key area of commitment we are pursuing in this administration. We are committed to a total of $33.44m in the next four years for the procurement of additional reproductive health commodities representing a 300 per cent domestic funding increase.
“We have also set aside $500 billion dollars over the next four years for maternal, new born and child health intervention under the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme.
“This is in addition to the $68m for polio and routine immunisation programme.
“In our efforts to improve financial access to life saving commodities for women and children, the Federal Government in April 2011, removed user fees from contraceptives in public health facilities.
“This has led to a dramatic increase in the demands for contraceptives in public sector by more than 150 per cent.
“With support from our partners, we have developed essential medicine scale up plans addressing diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, three diseases which account for 55 per cent of our nation’s under five deaths. Achieving 80 per cent will translate to saving more than half a million lives.”
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, in his welcome address said the Federal Government’s programme was in conformity with the United Nation’s Every Woman, Every Child Initiative which is aimed at saving 16 million lives worldwide by 2015.
He said the focus of the programme would be to ensure that essential medical commodities are made available to mothers and children in the country.
Minister of State, Health, Dr. Mohammed Pate, said the initiative represents an important paradigm shift in the nation’s health sector.
Pate said all the works the government was doing in the health sector would only be considered successful when lives are saved and diseases, are cured.
He said the ministry would deploy thousands of primary health workers to clinics across the country to achieve the feat of saving one million lives in the next three years.
He added that the government would also scale up its immunisation policies as well as the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV among others.
He said the foundation of the initiative would be partnership among governments at all levels, private sector as well as development partners.
He described midwives across the country as the heroines of the programme ,which he described as a revolution.
Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, who co-chairs the UN Commission with Jonathan, promised that his country would support the Federal Government’s programme with $25m.
Stoltenberg who was represented by the Secretary-General, Mrs. Angel Hauson, said the grant would be spread over a period of five years subject to the approval of the country’s parliament.
He said he was convinced that investing in women and children’s health would eventually lead to increase in the prosperity of a nation.