World Bank approves $500m for Nigeria’s maternal health

The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors has approved $500m International Development Association credit to improve maternal, child and nutrition health services for women and children in Nigeria.

By improving access to higher quality health services, the new development financing will help Nigeria to achieve its ‘Saving One Million Lives’ initiative, the bank said in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja.

The initiative was inaugurated by the Ministry of Health in October 2012 to save the lives of more than 900,000 women and children who die every year in the country from largely preventable causes.

Nigeria accounts for 14 per cent of all annual maternal deaths worldwide, second only to India at 17 per cent. Similarly, Nigeria accounts for 13 per cent of all global deaths of children under the age of five years; again, second only to India at 21 per cent, the bank said.

On the new project, the Lead Health Specialist and Task Team Leader, World Bank, Mr. Benjamin Loevinsohn, said, “Saving one million lives is a bold response from the Nigerian government to improve the health of the country’s mothers and children so that they can survive illness and thrive.

“This, in turn, will also contribute to the social and economic development of Africa’s largest economy.”

To address the challenge of the country’s 900,000 maternal and child deaths, the SOML initiative focuses on increasing the use of high-impact reproductive and child health and nutrition interventions; improving the quality of these services; strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems and measurement data; encouraging private sector innovation; and increasing transparency in the management and budgeting for primary health care in the country.

The bank’s support for the SOML will utilise the Programme-for-Results or PforR instrument to encourage a greater focus on results, increase accountability, improve measurements, strengthen management, and foster innovation.

The PforR funds will only be disbursed to the federal and state governments for independently verified improvements in key services such as vaccination coverage among young children, rates of contraceptive use, Vitamin A supplementation, skilled birth attendance, HIV counselling and testing among women attending antenatal care, and preventing new malaria infections among children by using insecticide-treated bed nets when they sleep, the bank said.

The new health operation is expected to start on August 1, 2015 and will end four years later in December 2019.

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