Error message

Deprecated function: Function create_function() is deprecated in eval() (line 1 of /var/www/vhosts/ : eval()'d code).

Wellbeing Foundation Africa Annual Review 2018

Dear Partners and Friends of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa,
As 2018 draws to a close, I want to thank each of you for your support and interest in the work of the WBFA over the past 12 months.

It has been an exciting and impactful year. I am, as ever, proud of the work carried out by our MamaCare midwives, who continue to be a source of inspiration. Each and every one of the over 250,000 MamaCare babies safely delivered is a testament to their expertise and commitment.
The WBFA has also expanded its reach this year, with sixty-two trained midwives in Abuja, Lagos, Kwara & Kaduna delivering components of our programmes, ensuring that women, their children and their communities stay alive and thrive.

In August, we announced the expansion of our health worker training programme across Kwara and I am tremendously grateful to our partners Johnson & Johnson and the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health (CMNH) at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine for making that possible.
2018 was also a year of new beginnings, as I personally launched a new global water, sanitation and hygiene campaign alongside the WHO. Please do read on for more details on that campaign and many other important advocacy areas.
What follows is not a full analysis of every programme carried out, every campaign and every conference from 2018, but rather an overview of the work that we have done, some key events and an insight into the impact we achieve through our partnerships. For a full view of the year, please go to our website:

Thank you again for your support and inspiration. I look forward to working with and alongside you in 2019.

Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki
Founder-President, Wellbeing Foundation Africa



Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

At the WBFA, we recognise that a lack of safe water, handwashing facilities, hygiene and cleaning practices has ramifications for whole communities and all of the work that we do as a Foundation. Basic infection prevention and control procedures necessary to prevent antimicrobial resistance become difficult, and both health care providers and those seeking care are placed at substantial risk of infection, posing a significant economic and social burden.
A WHO/UNICEF 2015 global review reported that nearly 40% of facilities lack water supplies, 19% are without sanitation and 35% do not have any hand hygiene materials. Pregnant women and their newborns are especially vulnerable to the consequences of poor WASH services. Among hospital-born babies in developing countries, health care associated infections are responsible for between 4% and 56% of all causes of death in the neonatal period, 75% of which occur in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Poor WASH facilities in schools also lowers attendance and educational achievement, with a particular effect on girls. According to UNESCO, one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa do not attend school during their menstrual cycle, and can miss as much as twenty percent of a given school year.
In May 2018, WBFA Founder-President H.E. Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki launched a global WASH campaign in Abuja at a meeting with Dr. Wondi Alemu, who was then the WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Nigeria. Mrs Saraki announced that the WBFA would work with partners including Global Water 2020, an initiative based in Washington D.C. which is designed to accelerate progress toward water access and security for all people in developing countries, with a particular focus on increasing the availability of WASH in healthcare centres.

Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki with Dr. Wondi Alemu, WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Nigeria in May 2018 

A key element of that partnership is advocacy for improved WASH standards, both in Nigeria and around the world.
To that end, in June 2018 Mrs Saraki led a delegation to Washington D.C. to take part in multilateral meetings with the US State Department, the World Bank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the American Academy of Sciences and members of the United States Congress. The visit was intended as both an information gathering exercise and to engender a new spirit of co-operation on WASH. Each meeting highlighted the extent of the challenge. For instance, World Bank Data revealed that in Nigeria, WASH indices have actually suffered an alarming decline from an already critical condition. Access to piped water on premises in urban areas dropped from 30% in 1990, to less than 10% in 2015, and for Nigeria to achieve the WASH SDGs, it must invest at least three times more than it does today.

Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki with Luis Andres, Lead Economist in the Water Global Practice at the World Bank and Maria Sotomayor, World Bank Water Manager for Africa

That visit was followed by a formal submission to the 2018 United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The intervention was made in relation to the forum event “Partnerships that Deliver for Girls and Women – an interactive dialogue to break down silos and achieve the SDGs” organised by Women Deliver. These public statements and advocacy are and will continue to be supplemented by private, direct interventions with politicians, government departments and global institutions.
In 2018 we also forged new, strategic partnerships to further our WASH aims.
In September 2018 the WBFA partnered with Unilever Lifebuoy Nigeria and Sightsavers to improve hygiene practices to impact more than 2 million children over the following 12 months. The partnership works on programmes which promote hygiene messages and prevent disease, advancing critical hygiene interventions such as handwashing with soap, addressing the issue of child illnesses and mortality due to preventable diseases.

L-R: CEO, Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Amy Oyekunle; Category Manager Skin Cleansing, UNILEVER Nigeria plc, Osato Evbuomwan; Brand Ambassador, Lifebuoy, Omawumi Magbele; Director, Corporate Affairs, UNILEVER Nigeria plc, Soromidayo George and Country Director, Sightsavers, Dr. Sunday Isiyaku

The WBFA’s MamaCare midwives have also taken up the mantle of improved WASH standards to their antenatal and postnatal classes, and advocate strongly to staff at the healthcare facilities at which they give their classes.
In August, as the United Nations marked International Youth Day, the WBFA took its pioneering PSHE and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education programme to schoolchildren in Ogun State, Nigeria.

H.E receiving High 5's for Handwashing from Pupils of Command Primary School during 2018 Global Handwashing Day

Precious Ajunwa, WBFA Youth Programmes Leader, teaching the WHO-standard of handwashing technique

Pupil of Biney Memorial School practicing proper handwashing on World Toilet Day

The WBFA’s programme is based on its Adolescent Skills and Drills, Personal Social and Health Education Curriculum, the first locally-developed PSHE curriculum, which is formed of three core pillars – Your Rights and Your Body, Health Relationships, and Planning Your Future. Within those main areas an extensive range of topics pertinent to the health and wellbeing of young people are covered, with a focus on WASH.

The cohort of children, aged between 8 and 17 years old, were taught the WHO standard of hand washing techniques in addition to further break-out sessions, in line with the commitment of the WBFA to support the attainment of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This pilot, which took place over two days, educated 237 children at the Ogun State Summer Camp. Since August, the programme has expanded to schools in Lagos and Abuja.


In October, at the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki declared that current WASH conditions in Nigeria represented a ‘National Emergency,’ commenting:

“According to the World Bank, Nigeria’s spending on water, sanitation and hygiene – known as ‘WASH’ - must at least triple if we are to have any hope of achieving the clean water and sanitation goals. A lack of investment in WASH is putting the lives of thousands at risk as the spread of Ebola, for example, is made more likely.”

“WASH is at the heart of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and the fact that outbreaks of diseases have been so severe in Nigeria recently – with the WHO commenting that the Lassa Fever outbreak this year was unprecedented – is no coincidence.”

“Meanwhile, women and infants are dying needlessly in labour rooms, with maternal sepsis taking a mother's life at what should be the most joyous time.”

“It is not just the current situational analysis which is so bleak, but also the systematic failures to bring WASH standards up to an appropriate level for our population.”

“Last year the World Bank published its appropriately-named report ‘A Wake up Call – Nigeria Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic.’  I met with the water team at the World Bank this summer to discuss and analyse its conclusions, which were devastating. Only 29% of Nigerians have access to improved sanitation, and poor children are about four times more likely to get diarrheal disease than rich children due to poor access to WASH. This dire situation is not being effectively addressed.”

 “There have been very recent encouraging signs from the Ministry of Water Resources in Nigeria, but I would like to take this opportunity to ask us all to acknowledge that water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in Nigeria represent a national emergency – and should be treated as such.”

Days later the Federal Government heeded that call and declared a national state of emergency in WASH. Mrs Saraki then held further a further meeting with the World Bank in Abuja, after which she commented:

“I am delighted that the Federal Government has finally accepted that water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in Nigeria are in a state emergency. Since I launched the global campaign earlier this year, I have been shocked at the standards Nigerians have to put up with.”

"I would like to thank the water team at the World Bank for their excellent work highlighting the issues that must be urgently addressed in Nigeria. I was glad today to be able to accept their invitation to lead a campaign to end open defecation which remains a major health hazard in Nigeria. I will be taking up the World Bank’s suggestion to conduct a field visit to discover what has been so successful in India and bring those lessons back to Nigeria.”

Stay tuned for more WASH updates, advocacy and partnerships in 2019!


Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care (EmONC)

In August, alongside our partners Johnson & Johnson and the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health (CMNH) at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, we were delighted to announce the expansion of our ground-breaking healthcare training programme across the whole of Kwara State, Nigeria, over the next 2 years.

The partnership, which focuses on Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care (EmONC) training in healthcare facilities to improve health outcomes for mothers and their newborns has already been active in 7 of the 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Kwara State. The programme will now be expanded to cover all 16 LGAs and consolidate the work in the areas in which the training is already active. This follows the successful completion of the first two phases of the partnership, which have been hailed as transforming the capacity of healthcare workers and their ability to save lives during labour.

Between 2018-2020, EmONC 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, an estimated 62,900 women and their newborns will benefit from the interventions implemented.

Michelle Akande, Country Manager for Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson in Nigeria, commented in August:

“We believe, in partnerships, we can achieve so much more than what we can achieve alone.  Because of partners such as Wellbeing Foundation Africa and the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, we believe we can achieve the aspiration of ending preventable maternal and child death. However, we need each and every one of you to join us because it is YOUR dedication and commitment that will make this aspiration a reality!” 

Dr Charles Ameh, Senior Clinical Lecturer at CMNH added: 
"What is particularly exciting about phase three of this programme is the ability to be able to improve the availability and quality of emergency obstetric and newborn care across the entire state. The continued partnership with Johnson & Johnson, Wellbeing Foundation Africa and the Ministry of Health in Kwara State will not only allow LSTM to build the capacity of health care workers in LGAs where we have not worked before, but we will be consolidating the achievements of previous phases to ensure sustainability of the intervention." 

Prior to the announced expansion of EmONC,  in February 2018 Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki – accompanied by Joy Marini, Global Director of Community Impact at Johnson & Johnson and Dr. Hauwa Mohammed, Nigeria Country Lead at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine – opened a new skills laboratory in Kwara, which enables master trainers and skilled lab coordinators to train healthcare providers in essential EmOC&NC knowledge and skills. Once trained, the lab allows these healthcare providers to continue to practice and hone their skills.


Thank you to our partners, our staff and communities in Kwara who have all made this programme such a success and its expansion possible.


In 2018, MamaCare midwives continued and expanded their antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal classes for women, mothers and their families.

The midwives of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, known as MamaCare midwives, deliver classes in primary healthcare centres, hospitals, and at camps for internally displaced persons, known as IDP camps, which are a frontline for women and their infants. Despite dire mortality rates in Nigeria - where women face around a one in thirteen risk of maternal mortality in their lifetime - we have not lost even one of our over 250,000 MamaCare mothers during childbirth. Our MamaCare midwives have achieved this not only by providing classes to a global standard - and achieving the new WHO benchmark recommendation of at least 8 antenatal visits - but also because they act as even more than lifesavers. They provide safe spaces and safe conversations: no subject is taboo or off-limits.

Mrs Saraki with Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
The WBFA is delighted to be working in a new partnership with UNFPA on MamaCare and nutrition in Abuja, Nigeria – keeping mothers, babies, families and communities healthy and happy.


That includes family planning, a subject which is not only addressed during their classes but also at the 6-week postnatal home visit. That one-one-one chat covers exclusive breastfeeding but also contraception advice and a discussion about spacing. Informally, direct and rather frank conversations are carried out with husbands and partners.

Excitingly, the WBFA is now working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on a new, UNFPA-funded MamaCare: Maternal Nutrition Programme which will reach 250,000 women (pregnant & nursing mothers) with nutrition counselling, micro-supplementation with Iron & Folic Acid in Abuja, and reach 38 Health Facilities cutting across Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Public Health facilities.

WBFA currently has 62 trained midwives in Abuja, Lagos, Kwara & Kaduna delivering components of our programmes.


The Cannes Lions and fighting for what is right: The Glass Lion Award 

Every year since 1954, an event has been held to celebrate the work of people in creative communications, advertising, and related fields which has become the largest and most significant gathering of the advertising and creative communications industry. This event is known as the Cannes Lions, hosted in the French Riviera along the Mediterranean sea. However, the Cannes Lions did not begin in France, nor is there any particularly noteworthy lion in Cannes unless the local zoo experiences the unfortunate escape of a large feline. The current Cannes Lions festival has its roots in Venice, where the lion at the Piazza San Marco served as the symbolic icon for which the festival is now known across the world.

The Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Her Excellency Toyin Saraki, was delighted to attend the 2018 Cannes Lions festival, which she had previously attended as a guest speaker and participator, as a member of the Jury for the Glass Lion award. This award celebrates culture-shifting creativity and entries need to demonstrate ideas intended to change the world; that is, work which sets out to positively impact ingrained gender inequality, imbalance or injustice. The Glass Lion recognises work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice, through the conscious representation of gender in advertising. In line with the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s objective to reach Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, this award celebrated and brought forth a wide range of innovative, mould-breaking and ongoing projects which were submitted in their creative facets as representations of forward-thinking initiatives for the betterment of women’s empowerment and overall status across the world.

Her Excellency Toyin Saraki                                                                                            Judge credentials, Cannes Lions 2018

Leading the Glass Lions award this year was the fitting profile of an industry leader, characterised by a resilience and commitment to her cause that transcends her own life and impacts beyond the industry. Madonna Badger, who created the #WomenNotObjects campaign, is the founder and CCO of advertising agency Badger & Winters, which over the last 22 years has led with a female perspective that helps brands grow loyal and lasting relationships with women in an emotional and intuitive way. Throughout the week of the 18th to the 23rd of June, she was Glass Jury President and combined the expertise of all jury members to assess which project should be the winner of the coveted Grand Prix. This year’s campaigns - which ranged from an initiative to eradicate the Rape Tax which thousands of women in the United States of America have to pay in medical bills and treatment following rape, to a campaign against abuse to women in online video-games from Brazil - culminated in the revelation of 2018’s winner at the award ceremony on Friday evening.

Cannes Lions Glass Award 2018 Jury

Madonna Badger & Her Excellency Toyin Saraki 


This year’s award - as difficult as it proved to land upon a final decision for which project was most worthy of the Grand Prix - was given to the #BloodNormal campaign; where feminine care brands Bodyform and Libresse abandon the blue liquid usually used to depict blood in advertising in favour of a real depiction of menstrual blood. This bold ad campaign aimed to break period taboos and Madonna, in her introductory speech at the awards, said “to demonstrate the effect this campaign has had on me personally, I’m not afraid to say the word ‘period’ over and over again at an international press conference,”. As an indicator of positive social change, #BloodNormal has broken through decades of sanitized ads around period products, showing real blood on pads rather than blue liquid. Furthermore, members from the creators of the campaign, AMV BBDO,  brought a giant pool raft shaped like a maxi pad onto the stage as they accepted the gold Lion.

Madonna’s speech also spurred a wave of support and admiration for its ability to combine some of the most successful and innovative campaigns towards equality and demolishing gender barriers. Her full speech, shown below, combined social media tags ranging from #WomenNotObjects to #MeToo and encapsulated the eclectic momentum gathered from across the world to instigate the social and institutional changes which challenge long-standing histories of misrepresentation and under-representation:

“At Cannes, WE SEE IT Be IT

We see equal in the Girls Lounge,

We See Her. We Free the Bid and our unstereotype alliance

empowers me

3%? no, More like me, is more like it.

AND Yes #SheisEqual

and Yes we are definitely #WomennotObjects.

In the Glass Lion Jury,

We #StandbyToughMoms,

We are a #ForceofNature, and

in our #DressofRespect, we need a man like you to end #TheRapeTax.

We go to Technical School, as a Betu,

Its #MynameMygame, as we play in our #LionessCrest.

Watching the #WorstSoapOpera, we saw that #NoConditionsapply.

and we remember our Blood is normal

and #MeToo.

Uh oh

Looks like #TimesUp.”

Award ceremony, Cannes Lion 2018

The Cannes Lions 2018 proved to be an educational and invaluable experience which will motivate and inspire Wellbeing Foundation Africa projects and initiatives for months to come. It was also the first year of its history where Nigerian judges represented the country and wider region, with attendees from Nigeria working within the industry also present at the festival, which is as groundbreaking as it is a catalyst for positive change to continue.

(left to right) Kemdi Ebi, Chika Uwazie, Her Excellency Toyin Saraki, Lanre Adisa


Alive and Thrive

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa is a proud implementing partner of the Alive and Thrive project alongside our partners FHI 360 and Save the Children International, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
Alive and Thrive aims to save lives, prevent illness stunting and malnutrition, ensuring the healthy growth and development of infants and young children through improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, through a four-pronged approach:  policy and advocacy; interpersonal communication and community mobilization; mass communication; and strategic use of data.

Health workers taking part in the Alive & Thrive training programme in Ojo LGA, Lagos

Official Launch of the Alive and Thrive Start Strong Media Campaign on Breastfeeding in Lagos State

Master Trainers on the Alive and Thrive Breastfeeding Campaign showing proper positioning and attachment to breast during a training session in Lagos State

Official Launch of the Alive and Thrive Start Strong Media Campaign on Breastfeeding in Lagos State

The scope of the current project is as follows:
• Reach 517,483 women (pregnant women & nursing mothers) with breastfeeding communication, information and support
• Reach 800 Private Health Facilities in Lagos and Kaduna States
• Train 2,236 health care workers on breastfeeding and minimum diversity feeding information
• Engage in Private Health Sector Advocacy with government (local, state and federal) and other key stakeholders in Nutrition and IYCF.
• SBCC Communications on early initiation, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months & minimum dietary diversity in children
Malnutrition accounts for more than 50% of under-five mortality in Lagos state. Infant Mortality rate is at 103 per 1000 live births (NDHS 2013), while under-5 mortality rates are at 169 per 1000 live births (NDHS 2013). The rate of timely breastfeeding initiation is 28.9% (MICS 2017), with only 19.7% of children being exclusively breastfed (MICS 2017), and only 10% of children aged 6 – 23 months were fed appropriately. Within the State, 11.7% of children are wasted from acute under nutrition, 47% of children under-5 years are stunted, while 34% are under weight (MICs 2017).

 Davos: “Let us make 2018 the year of Universal Health Coverage”

Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki with Oly Ilunga Kalenga (Minister of Health, Democratic Republic of Congo), Kristalina Georgieva (CEO, World Bank) Khawar Mann (Partner, The Abraaj Group), Mary-Ann Etiebet (Executive Director of MSD for Mothers) Chris Elias (President, Global Development Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

In January 2018, Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki carried out a series of high-level meetings and interventions at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Following Mrs Saraki’s interventions at the World Bank's Global Financing Facility hosted "High-Level Panel Discussion on Women, Adolescent's and Children's Health" Mrs Saraki had meetings with global health leaders, and also attended The Female Quotient, focused on gender equality, and Johnson & Johnson's Co-Laboratory. Mrs Saraki commented from Davos at the time:

"The power of health partnerships in Global development has contributed to the Wellbeing Foundation's success in bringing world innovation to rural healthworker training on Emergency Management of Obstetric and Newborn Care through our collaboration with Johnson & Johnson, and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine"

“This week at Davos, as a Global UHC Champion and Inaugural Goodwill Ambassador of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), I have been responding to the questions: Why UHC? Why now?”

"I agree wholeheartedly with WHO DG Dr Tedros that UHC is the best way to create a shared future in a fractured world – it not only provides ‘Health for All’ but also reduces poverty, drives economic growth and promotes gender equality.”

“At this year’s World Economic Forum I have advocated for midwives as a key engine-starter towards the success of our shared pursuit of better health outcomes, as midwives are well placed to deliver, develop, nurture and counsel all families from birth to age."

"To achieve UHC, and enduring health security, we must ensure that we consider all aspects of health service delivery, from education of health workers, healthcare infrastructure - including at primary healthcare level - service delivery, education and informing of patients, and ensuring there is efficient data for immunisation and follow-up care.”

“In my native Nigeria there has been progress over the last year - last July the Senate President launched the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage; Nigeria's Primary Health Care Revitalisation Support Group, which I chair, has been a driving force and the Senate has resolved to mandate its Committee on Appropriations to include the one percent Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), meaning that the Fund will be in the budget for the first time.”

“There is however a long way to go. Globally every year healthcare expenses push an estimated 100 million people into poverty around the world and average life expectancy in Nigeria remains at around 53 years old."

"Let us make 2018 the year of Universal Health Coverage.”


May 2018: H.E. Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki named as special advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO)

In May our Founder-President Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki was been named as special advisor to the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) of WHO AFRO, the World Health Organization’s presence in Africa.

The appointment was made by Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a move intended to bring Mrs Saraki’s considerable frontline experience to bear on WHO strategy and policy.

Mrs Saraki’s first engagement in the new role was the 3rd meeting of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) in Johannesburg, South Africa, which focused on repositioning the work of the WHO in Africa in the context of the WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13) and the global WHO Transformation Plan.

Responding to her appointment, Mrs Saraki commented: “I welcome the Advisory Group meeting’s focus on the health of women, children and adolescents as flagship indicators for Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) progress. As a global champion for UHC, I advocate for a fuller understanding of its benefits, which go beyond health outcomes and include improved gender equality, higher levels of preparedness for epidemic outbreaks and transformative economic effects.”

"As Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, I particularly welcome the introduction of WHO AFRO's focused curriculum for the professional qualification education of Midwives and Nurses in Africa."

“I am looking forward to hitting the ground running in my new role as special advisor at the Independent Advisory Group meeting this week in Johannesburg.”

“The experience I have gained as Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, working closely with our midwives on the frontline, as part of the global Every Woman Every Child Strategy to end all preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, including stillbirths, by 2030, will inform my advice to the WHO."

“Last year Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus became the first African Director-General of the WHO. His commitment to Universal Health Coverage represents bold leadership and I look forward to working closely with him, Dr Moeti and all partners to make affordable and accessible healthcare a reality across Africa.”

L-R Dr Chibi (WHO Rep), Mrs Amy Oyekunle (WBFA CEO), H.E Mrs Toyin Saraki (Founder-President WBFA) and Dr Matshidiso Moeti (Regional Director, WHO)

Walk the Talk!


Prior to the World Health Assembly in May,  the WBFA in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) organised a 7.2 kilometre through Abuja.

The walk was led by Mrs Toyin Saraki, Founder President of the WBFA and WHO Representative, Head of Mission in Nigeria, Dr Wondi Alemu, in partnership with the Ministry of Youths and Sports Development.

The walk was aimed at promoting healthy lifestyle practices towards the Africa Health Transformation Agenda of the WHO.

Over 2,000 people participated in the walk which started from the Millennium Park in Abuja, went through major streets distributing handbills to people and motorists.

Mrs Saraki commented following the walk:

“It is the first time a country office of the WHO has actually done this walk, and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa is delighted to collaborate with the WHO to work towards Universal Health Coverage for all, especially in Nigeria.”

According to the WHO, globally one in four adults are not active enough, and insufficient physical activities is a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

71st World Health Assembly

Following her appointment as Special Adviser, Mrs Saraki and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa attended the 71st World Health Assembly in May in Geneva.

Mrs Saraki delivered the opening remarks to the WHO African Region "Delivering Results - Achieving Impact" Reception, praising the leadership demonstrated by Dr. Tedros and the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti:

“The WHO Transformation Agenda in the African region has already delivered significant achievements and made an impact in key areas. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the WHO and the 40th anniversary of the Declaration of Alma Ata on Health for All, the WHO is demonstrably leading the way on the ‘three billion’ target - 1 billion more people with health coverage, 1 billion more people made safer, and 1 billion more people whose lives are improved.”

“I was delighted to meet again with Dr. Tedros – as WHO Special Advisor for the African Region, I am humbled and privileged to support his transformation agenda. His affirmation of WBFA campaigns on water, sanitation and hygiene; ensuring safe delivery and thriving infants; and universal health coverage, are most welcome.”

Mrs Saraki with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO

Mrs Saraki, in her keynote address to the ‘Leading the Way for Midwives’ side-event organized by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) headquartered at The Hague – of which she is the Global Goodwill Ambassador – praised midwives, commenting:

“WBFA midwives, like their colleagues all over the world, are motivated by a strong sense of duty and compassion. Their commitment to respectful maternity care, good humour and treasure trove of testimonial impact are the most persuasive qualities I know. So whilst it is my job to lead the way for midwives, it is midwives themselves who lead the way so brilliantly. Our role must be to give them the platforms and commensurate remuneration and global recognition to do so.”

Mrs Saraki also addressed the launch of the business case for WHO Immunization Activities in Africa, calling for the WHO, bilateral donors and development agencies to consider a special status for Nigeria:

“I thank the WHO for clarifying and strengthening its transformation strategy regarding vaccination, as Nigeria could be in danger of falling through the gap of the funding transition – it tells us that we must strengthen civil society and the private sector to mobilize domestic resources. I would like to add my voice to the request for Nigeria to be given a special category during this transition period, as a global health security issue in terms of vaccine preventable infectious diseases control, and further suggest that the WHO country offices consider assisting the capacity building of Nigeria's civil society and the private sector to bring themselves up to speed and thereby be able to step into the breach.”

Mrs Saraki addressing the launch of the business case for WHO Immunization Activities in Africa


The Case for a new Cancer Alliance in Nigeria

In July 2018 the WBFA, in partnership with Amref Health Africa and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, convened a stakeholders meeting to launch and present a business case for a new Cancer Alliance. The move followed the successful call for the inclusion of Cancer into the Non-communicable Diseases framework of the Universal Health Coverage, during the Summit of the Legislative Network on Universal Health Coverage.

The new Cancer Alliance aims to transform cancer health outcomes in Nigeria, which were found in a WBFA report released earlier this year to be linked to a complete lack of treatment infrastructure. Cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102,000 new cases annually.

The Cancer Alliance Stakeholders Meeting, convened by H.E. Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, Founder-President of the WBFA, hosted high-level participants including the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; the Head of Fundraising and Partnerships, Amref Health Africa, Desta Lakew; General Manager, Amref Enterprises, Dr. Fraser Karua; the Global Head of Access to Medicines, Takeda, Dr. Susanne Weissbaecker; Senior Corporate Counsel, Legal, Takeda, Hector Rothlisberger; Surgical Oncologist, University College Hospital, Dr. Bolaji Ayandipo; Health Economist at World Health Organisation, Dr. Francis Ukwuije; Head of Oncology, National Hospital Abuja, Dr. Abubakar Bello; and other distinguished medical practitioners.

Mrs Saraki commented following the meeting: “I am delighted at the framework of the Cancer Alliance conceptualised by stakeholders here today. This Cancer Alliance will ensure affordability of care, ease of access to healthcare centres, call for increase in the number of trained healthcare practitioners available, and provide a less complex ecosystem where patients can receive support across the continuum of care.”

“The inauguration of this Cancer Alliance is a follow-up to the release by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa in April of its ground-breaking ‘Rapid Assessment of the Prevention and Control of Cancer in Nigeria’ report, the first independent national research on cancer provisions in the country. The Cancer Alliance will work to mitigate the challenges identified by our pioneering report, and coordinate the transformation of cancer outcomes in Nigeria. Everyone should have a fighting chance of surviving cancer, whether they are rich or poor; or live in cities or rural areas.”

“I am grateful to all our partners, in particular Amref Health Africa and Takeda, for their continued support towards curbing the scourge of cancer in Nigeria, and to the Federal Ministry of Health for its assistance and acknowledgment of the urgent state of cancer outcomes in Nigeria.” 


Devex World

In July our Founder-President Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, delivered a keynote address to Devex World, the global media group for international development, at a high-level conference in Washington D.C.

Mrs Saraki addressed delegates on the subject of the ‘data revolution’ and its impact upon maternal and infant health outcomes – the founding mission of her Foundation.

In her address, Mrs Saraki called for frontline healthcare workers to inform new technology use and data innovations, such as the WBFA’s virtual and practical training programmes for midwives and doctors:

“Rapid data & feedback allows health workers to act quickly and effectively. That should feed in to longer-term policy changes. Hands-on training is crucial - but combined with virtual training we can reach far more health workers and use the data to assess need and impact.”

“WBFA MamaCare Midwives have proven to be the ones with the direct line to mothers and newborns. They can bring detailed, immediate information to shape policy.”

“They have shown that even relatively simple technology can transform maternal and child health outcomes over a huge area. The WBFA WhatsApp groups have, for example, proven to be hugely popular with expectant and new mothers. Questions and worries are aired within that community 24 hours a day – and handled expertly by our qualified midwives. Of course, whilst our MamaCare classes do not yet operate throughout Nigeria, friends and family of those already in the group from all over the country are added, giving a huge scope to the community – which is constantly changing, as mothers leave to make space for newly expectant mothers. It also allows MamaCare midwives to attend to emergencies swiftly and discreetly.”


Mrs Saraki also addressed a multilateral roundtable comprised of technical experts and Government representatives focused on effective techniques to combat malaria, in which she emphasized the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH):

“Whilst I welcome innovations to combat malaria, including the use of drones to monitor and tackle swarms, we must do the basics right. Currently, the WASH conditions in healthcare facilities, schools and communities across Nigeria and in much of Africa create breeding grounds for mosquitos, defeating attempts to eradicate this deadly disease.”

“I have launched a global WASH campaign which addresses this precise issue. Sanitary conditions are essential to combat any disease and keep communities healthy and safe.”

United Nations General Assembly

In September the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and its Founder-President, Toyin Saraki, addressed and participated in high-level events at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Following the murder of young midwife and mother Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa in Nigeria only the week before, the safety of frontline health workers was at the top of the WBFA’s agenda. Toyin Saraki urged Governments to prioritise their safety at a series of events throughout the General Assembly week, including during a speech at the United Nations. She also outlined her five-point plan to save the Sustainable Development Goals and held a series of multilateral meetings.

Non-communicable diseases, education for girls and water, sanitation and hygiene also featured heavily in the advocacy and programmatic events prioritised by WBFA, which showcased its programmes – above all the work of its MamaCare midwives and the Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) programme – at the Access Challenge Universal Health Coverage conference.

The WBFA also participated in several other high-level events, including the WHO summit on Non-Communicable Diseases, Girls not Brides and a deep-dive analysis of effective preparation for and prevention of epidemics.

Toyin Saraki addressed the United Nations General Assembly and outlined the key interventions which must be made to transform health outcomes for women, children and communities around the world. Mrs Saraki was requested to make her address at the launch of the Independent Accountability Panel report ‘Private Sector: Who is Accountable,’ as mandated by the UN Secretary-General.

The report calls on governments, parliaments, private sector partners and multilateral agencies to establish effective accountability systems.

In her remarks to the General Assembly, which were commended by the Independent Accountability Panel, Mrs Saraki commented:

“Thank you to the members of the Accountability Panel for the opportunity to address you today.”

“Only two countries in Africa have met the Abuja declaration to pledge 15% of their government budgets to health. Meanwhile, tuberculosis kills more than 4,000 people every single day. This can be avoided.”

“I am advocating for five key interventions to achieve both accountability and the demographic dividend.”

“Civil registration and vital statistics systems must be implemented and strengthened to allow Governments to prepare for epidemics and allocate investment where it is needed the most.”

“Investment in family, community and primary healthcare – along with hospitals where needed – to bolster healthcare wherever people need it; in rural areas and urban, cities and villages.”

“Government investment in strengthening health insurance systems is paramount to achieving Universal Health Coverage – in Nigeria and around the world, too many people are plunged into poverty by health emergencies that they or their families experience.”

“Non-communicable diseases kill over 41 million people every year. The Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros, has rightly highlighted the NCD crisis and it must be a core focus of all Government programmes. Strengthening the primary health tier is key to prevention, detection and treatment of NCDs”

“Finally, and most importantly, the murder of young midwife and mother Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa in Nigeria last week must spur Governments and global institutions on to strengthen security provisions for frontline health workers. Their training and pay conditions must also be improved.”


Following her United Nations address, Mrs Saraki joined the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros, and the President of Uruguay, His Excellency Tabaré Vázquez, at a global press briefing to mark the WHO Non-Communicable Diseases Declaration.

Mrs Saraki, who also serves as Chair of Nigeria’s Primary Health Care Revitalisation Support Group, subsequently participated in the United Nations General Assembly Third High-level Meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which undertook a comprehensive review of the global and national progress achieved in putting measures in place that protect people from dying too young from heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes. The high-level meeting at the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations Headquarters was opened with a keynote speech delivered by renowned philanthropist Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City

Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki addressing the gathering hosted by the International Confederation of Midwives at the UN General Assembly

As Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), Mrs Saraki also spoke at high-level stakeholders and reception events to raise recent security tragedies for health workers in Nigeria and around the world. In her speech to ICM Mrs Saraki commented:

“In March, a 25-year-old midwife 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 week 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.” 

“I have now been ICM’s Global Goodwill Ambassador for quite some time - four and a half years and counting, in fact. I am fortunate in this role to have my work informed by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa MamaCare midwives, by the team at ICM, and by friends – many of them here – who share our vision and commitment. Like all of you, however, I strive to find new and effective ways to champion the cause of midwives, both as a public advocate and in private. Making the right case to the right people, at any level, is something I know we can share our wisdom on – please never refrain from letting me know how I can be a better champion.”

At the Access Challenge Universal Health Coverage Conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa showcased its programmes and global advocacy to global health leaders and partners. The work of our MamaCare midwives took centre stage, along with the Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) programme and our campaign to improve water, sanitation and hygiene standards in Nigeria and around the world.

WBFA Founder-President Toyin Saraki subsequently chaired the forum on Child Health and Malaria, which was one of four key areas explored by the conference - in addition to Maternal Health, non-communicable diseases and neglected tropical diseases. The four forums will combine to create a Universal Health Coverage Policy Report with key recommendations for Governments, global institutions and organisations to achieve health for all.

Participants of the Access Challenge Child Health and Malaria panel chaired by Mrs Saraki (L-R) Mr Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children; Dr. Stefan Swartling Peterson, Chief of UNICEF Health Section; Dr. Kesete Admasu, CEO RBM Partnership to End Malaria; Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki; Dr. Katharina Lichtner, Managing Director at the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation; Dr. Henry Mwanyika, PATH Digital Health Regional Director for Africa

Following the Child Health and Malaria panel, Mrs Saraki commended the robust dialogue,  commenting:

“This high-level panel provided excellent insights and policy recommendations, which will be essential to deliver upon if we are to achieve Universal Health Coverage – and indeed go beyond access to quality and equitable healthcare for all.”

“We identified the most effective methods of improving diagnosis and prevention of disease in low resource settings, highlighted the importance of African leadership in driving and directing domestic investment in child health and agreed the elements of  functioning primary health care systems.”

“Following the forum, I was delighted to spend some time discussing progress towards Universal Health Coverage and the barriers we face with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, former President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete, and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. All three are great champions for Universal Health Coverage – together we have a great urgency to achieve health for all.”

(L-R) His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, the Former President of Tanzania; Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki; Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Toyin Saraki further commented: “The Access Challenge One by One: Target 2030 agenda aims to ensure that every person in Africa has access to the basic package of health interventions that will allow her or him to thrive. Our goal is to encourage every leader in Africa to sign a Universal Health Access Declaration, which will guarantee that all Africans have access to basic health services.  These include treatment for Neglected Tropical Diseases, skilled maternal care during pregnancy and community access to prevention (including immunization), and diagnosis and treatment.”  Toyin Saraki, who herself received the Speak Up Africa Award for Citizen Engagement at the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, also congratulated the awardees this year, which included Agnes Binagwaho, former Minister of Health in Rwanda, Achim Steiner, Administrator - United Nations Development Programme, and Regional Director for WHO in Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

International Conference on Family Planning in Rwanda

In November, Toyin Saraki joined Her Excellency Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda, Her Excellency Mrs. Martine Moise, First Lady of Haiti and Her Royal Highness Sarah Zeid, Princess of Jordan on the Women of Impact: Global Leaders Creating Positive Change plenary panel at the International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali, Rwanda. 

Mrs Saraki with H.E the First Lady of Rwanda

Mrs Saraki, speaking as Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, praised Rwanda’s recent progress on healthcare outcomes and called for primary healthcare to be put at the heart of health systems and attempts to improve family planning access around the world, commenting:

“It is indeed a pleasure to be here in Rwanda, where tremendous progress has been made in recent years by women, adolescents, the Government, civil society and partners. As Bill Gates recently said, ‘the results in Rwanda show how a strong primary healthcare programme can reap improved healthcare outcomes.”

“What I want for every woman & child, and every citizen, to be happy and healthy. I want every girl to have a full and proper childhood, with a fitting education. I want every woman to be safe, happy and healthy. I want her to be able to bring children into the world safely, at a time of her choosing, and to be able to nurture from birth to age. I want her to have choice.”

“There is hardly a goal that we want that can not be dealt with at the primary health investment level. If we invest in primary health, it gives us a platform to push through everything else that we want to push through. Primary healthcare to me represents a constantly renewed positive social contract and bond between a Government and its people.  It remains one of the most strategic investments in the health and wellbeing of women.”

“I am very excited by our plans to invest in primary healthcare centres across Nigeria to bring affordable and quality care at the heart of communities. This is a huge investment with several expert partners which will, I believe, help to rejuvenate cities, towns and villages – releasing the demographic dividend in each of them. Those centres will bring together everything that a citizen needs for holistic care – from immunization to family planning – and address the huge gap in health insurance and access to quality care.”

“Thank you again to Rwanda for your incredible example in the health space, to the co-hosts of this conference the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.”

Following the panel Mrs Saraki held multilateral meetings, including with the Rwandan Minister of Health Dr. Diane Gashumba and Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the Rwandan State Minister of Public and Primary Healthcare.

The International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) provides an opportunity for political leaders, scientists, researchers, policymakers, advocates, and youth to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes, and identify next steps toward reaching the goal of enabling an additional 120 million women to access voluntary, quality contraception by 2020.

Share this Article

Related Posts