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Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki’s Goodwill Message at the B!RTH Event Wellcome Collection

Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki

Wife of the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Founder-President, Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA)

Inaugural Global Goodwill Ambassador, International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)

Special Adviser to the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO)


B!RTH Event

Wellcome Collection

Thursday 4th October


Thank you for the kind invitation to join you here for an evening of theatre and no doubt fascinating discussion. Please accept my apologies for being unable to attend in person – due to tragic circumstances I must be in Nigeria today, but I am represented by a member of my London office and I look forward to following up on your panel this evening.

Your choice of plays this evening sounds fascinating - 'Orchid' by Mumbi Kaigwa, with its focus on the burden of obstetric fistula in Kenya, and 'Q&Q' by Liwaa Yazji, depicting on the realities of pregnancy and childbirth through conflict. It is a common question I am sure we all ask ourselves regularly – how can we bring the stories that we know from our communities, our work and our experiences to the widest possible audience, to help women, children and adolescents share their lives? It is certainly a question that I spend a great deal of time working on, whether it is providing micro-grants to our youth partners to write articles or helping our MamaCare midwives lead the way and bringing the frontline of care to a global audience. The medium of theatre is a superb way to bring these stories to life.

I must pay tribute to our partners at the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Together with Johnson & Johnson we have led a ground-breaking partnership in Kwara State, Nigeria, which focuses on Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care - known as EmONC - training in healthcare facilities to improve health outcomes for mothers and their newborns.

In February this year, as we gathered around the demonstration given by Dr. Oluwole Olusegun in the skills laboratory at the General Hospital in Ilorin, Kwara State, he proudly explained how the EmONC training had transformed the capacity of doctors, nurses and midwives in Kwara to save the lives of women and newborn infants.

The laboratory had just been officially reopened by the WBFA alongside the partners who had joined forces with us to make this training possible - Joy Marini, Global Director of Community Impact at Johnson & Johnson and Dr. Hauwa Mohammed, Nigeria Country Lead at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.  Commissioning the lab was just one of the activities we carried out during the series of visits to assess the EmONC program, in order to hear first-hand why it has been so successful.

80% of all maternal deaths result from five complications which can be readily treated by qualified and trained health professionals: haemorrhage, sepsis, eclampsia, complications of abortion and obstructed labour. Our EmONC training takes place in-house and equips doctors, nurses and midwives, as a collective team, with the skills needed to overcome these obstetric emergencies. The demonstrations witnessed by the team in Kwara were wide-ranging and innovative – we were particularly impressed with the simple inexpensive and innovative use of a condom catheter balloon filled with saline to control postpartum haemorrhage, the excessive bleeding after birth which is the leading cause of maternal mortality and affects up to 5% of women.

Since that visit, we can as partners proudly report that we have moved to the next stage of the programme, as from August 2018 to August 2020 our EmONC training is set to expand across the whole of Kwara State, Nigeria. Over the next two years the training will be delivered to an additional 27 healthcare facilities in the remaining 9 LGAs of Kwara state. Over 600 healthcare providers will benefit directly from the interventions and over the 30-month project and an estimated 62,900 women and their newborns will benefit from the interventions implemented. To our partners here this evening I say: thank you.

The topic of Liwaa Yazji’s is certainly one that is close to our hearts, particularly given the events of the past two weeks. In March, a 25-year-old mmidwife named Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa was kidnapped by militants alongside two other International Committee of the Red Cross aid workers. Saifura, a young mother herself, had moved to Rann in north-eastern Nigeria to selflessly help those in need.

Saifura’s murder last month is a tragedy for Nigeria and for the global community of midwives. As a mother, as a Nigerian, and as a champion for midwives, I am devastated that we have lost one of our own.  We pray and work for the release and rescue of Hauwa Mohammed Liman and Alice Loksha as we come to terms with this stark reminder of the threat to life and liberty faced by midwives, nurses and health-care workers who selflessly work for the health and wellbeing of others.

Saifura had specifically been working in a facility for Internally Displaced Persons – where women are of course particularly vulnerable. Two days after the terrible news broke, our MamaCare midwife Rita was herself conducting an antenatal class in an IDP camp, albeit in an area with a quite different security situation. There can be no greater reminder of the need to support ICM’s advocacy and aims than the news last week and the work carried out by midwives like Saifura and Rita, with no fanfare, day after day, in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable.

Thank you once again for the invitation to join you this evening – I wish you the very best in your discussions and most importantly in your work. Thank you.

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