The Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Mrs. Toyin Saraki, has called for stillbirths to be taken out of the shadows of healthcare – removing the cultural stigmas that have made it an invisible death and an invisible grief for mothers suffering the devastating loss of their children. She disclosed this during the global launch of the Lancet ‘Ending Preventable Stillbirths’ Series that took place at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on Tuesday,
While research has indicated that stillbirths account for almost 2.6 million deaths annually worldwide, 75% of these deaths take place in sub-Saharan African and South Asia. Currently, Nigeria has the world’s second highest estimated stillbirth rate, with 42.9 stillbirths per 1,000 total births. Moreover, with a 1.3% annual rate of progress in reducing stillbirths between years 2000 and 2015, Nigeria ranks 123rd of 159 in the world for progress on stillbirths reduction. Given these dire statistics, it is evident that progress must be accelerated in order to meet the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) stillbirth target of 12 per 1,000 total births by 2030.
As Newborn Champion for Save the Children Nigeria; Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwifes; Grand Patron of White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria; and Global Champion for White Ribbon Alliance Global,, Mrs. Saraki has called for increased understanding of stillbirths at the local, national and international levels, and continues to work towards scaling up access to skilled midwives who can both provide care that prevents stillbirths and psychological support for grieving families in the aftermath of a stillbirth.
Co-authoring one of the series’ reports entitled ‘Stillbirths: economic and psychosocial consequences,’ Mrs. Saraki and WBFA have provided unique perspective on stillbirths in sub-Saharan Africa; sharing interventions such as the WBFA Personal Health Records; the Foundation’s emergency obstetric and newborn care training with Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; and their work on Respectful Maternity Care for expectant and new mothers.
Over the years, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has worked to prevent stillbirths through various initiatives including its ground-breaking #MaternalMonday social media campaign, which educates mothers about potential risks to survival; its Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Fund (AUHCF), which prevents pregnancy risks escalating into stillbirth by providing pregnant women to access antenatal care; and its WBFA Personal Health Record – a vital accountability and tracking tool that enables mothers to make informed decisions about their health while enabling health professionals to provide timely, effective care.