Context Analysis and Rationale for engagement of the Wife of the President.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 171 million, a growth rate of 3.2%, which means that the population will double in 22 years. 23 percent of the total population is women of reproductive age with adolescent girls aged 15-19 constituting over 11 percent of the population.

These populations are indeed major contributors to fertility as explained by the prevailing and persistently high national total fertility rate. The country faces significant challenges in its quest to improve outcomes

Data from the last three Nigeria Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHSs) demonstrates a 36 percent decline during this period in the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) and a 31 percent decline in the infant mortality rate. However the country is still not on track to achieve MDG4. There has been almost no progress on reducing maternal mortality (MDG5) and fertility remains stubbornly high. Childhood malnutrition has actually worsened by some measures (low weight for age has increased by 21 percent and wasting has increased 64 percent) and improved only modestly (12 percent) in terms of stunting (low height for age). Nigeria Contributes Substantially to Global Under-Five and Maternal Mortality with 900,000 Children and Mothers Dying each Year in Nigeria. Nigeria’s ability to address under – five and maternal mortality will affect global progress towards MDGs 4 and 5. Nigeria contributes 14 percent of all maternal deaths globally, second only to India at 17 percent. Similarly, Nigeria accounts for 13 percent of all Under-five deaths globally, again second only to India at 21 percent.

“Every year, Nigeria loses 33,000 women due to pregnancy related conditions, 800, 000 of its children under five years and 260,000 newborns: There is an urgent need for a Champion at the highest level of Government to promote the courses of Children and Women’s health in Nigeria!”

The high rate of illiteracy among women and young adolescents or married girls perpetuated by the early/child (Adolescent) marriages phenomenon further limits the capacity of women to access adequate information and services on health services and commodities which may not be unrelated to the 8% of high-risk births that are recorded for women below 18 years of age compared to 1% of births among women above 34 years.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide. It is one of the world’s deadliest – but most easily preventable – forms of cancer for women, responsible for more than 270,000 deaths annually, 85% of which occur in developing countries. Yet, due to poor access to screening and treatment services, the vast majority of deaths occur in women living in low- and middle-income countries including Nigeria. According to the data from the World Health Organisation, WHO, United Nations, the World Bank and IARC Globocan, articulated in the Crisis Cards, Nigeria, ranked 10th, has a cervical cancer mortality rate of 22.9 deaths per 100,000. Worse still, the crisis card showed that the top 10 countries with the highest cervical cancer mortality rates can be found in Africa. For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa has 22 percent of all cervical cancer cases worldwide. This calls for decisive and sustained action is required to ensure access to screening and treatment services for women and girls.

Africa Coalition on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health: Africa Cervical Cancer Multi-Indicator Incidence & Mortality Scorecard 2014:

In spite of the significant benefits of adequate nutrition to the wellbeing of women and children, far too many children under age 5 are still stunted and 29% underweight with extremely high wasting on the increase since 2008 (from 14-18 %).

Overall, the progress made by Nigeria so far in reducing maternal and child deaths does not correlate with the economic status of the country in terms of income and other resources. Nigeria is still classified among the countries that made insufficient progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 having recorded slow progress in reducing maternal, infant and child deaths since 1990. “The United Nations’ MDGs have shaped efforts in Nigeria to respond to gaps in health and education and to reduce poverty and malnutrition”. Nigeria is said to be 30 years behind Asia in terms of democratic dividends (UN Statistics).

The progress made through the MDGs are being consolidated in the Sustainable Development Goals, and for these goals to be truly sustainable, Nigeria would have to take additional concrete actions towards addressing the key barriers that impede the achievement of development results in spite of the enormity of the current financial resources from Government and Development partners.