Wife of the Senate President and President of a leading maternal health Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) – Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Mrs. Toyin Saraki, on Tuesday shared her personal still-birth experience with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in a move to create awareness of the direct and indirect costs of still-births in the country.
Mrs Saraki during the interview monitored in Abuja called for improvements in health education and access to primary healthcare, which she said were key elements to reducing still-births around the world.
According to her, Nigeria has the second highest estimated stillbirth rate, with more than 300,000 still-births in 2015 – of which more than half occurred during labour and birth.
Speaking to BBC Focus On Africa Radio Correspondent, Akwasi Sarpong, Mrs. Saraki also disclosed how her personal experience of still-birth inspired her efforts, through the WBFA, to end stillbirths.
Mrs. Saraki, who tragically lost one of her twin due to failures in the Nigerian public healthcare system, stated, “I was fighting for one life and bewildered how to mourn the other life… People did not know whether to congratulate or commiserate with me.”
According to her, the unfortunate experience informed her decision to co-author the third report in the Lancet ‘Ending Preventable Stillbirths’ Series launched on 19th January, 2015, titled: “Stillbirths: Economic and Psychosocial Consequences.”
In the Lancet report, Mrs. Saraki and WBFA provided a 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 new and expectant mothers.
Responding to a question from the BBC, the WBFA President further stated that, “stillbirths often go unrecorded, let alone lead to counselling. This is why I started the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, which works to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health across the continent.”
In a subsequent BBC World Impact interview with presenter Philippa Thomas, Mrs. Saraki also discussed the stigma tied to stillbirth and also underscored the need to create awareness on the issue and share stories.
According to her, studies have shown that 4 percent of care providers in low and middle-income countries attributed stillbirth to a mother’s fault, 12 percent agreed that parents should not talk about their stillborn baby, and only 19 percent agreed that a death before birth is the same as the death of a child.
She however noted the progress made by Rwanda on reducing stillbirth rates as a way forward for Nigeria and the world.
Following this interview, according to a statement from WBFA, Mrs. Saraki also participated in a short section for BBC Hausa and BBC Online where she outlined what women should do during pregnancy to prevent stillbirths, monitoring pregnancy and measures that can be taken to save newborns.
Also in another interview with Sophie Ikenye of BBC Focus on Africa TV, Mrs Saraki lamented the current rate of progress and said it will be more than 160 years before a pregnant woman in Africa has the same chance of her baby being born alive as a woman in a high-income country today.
She said that WBFA is working to leapfrog progress in order to ensure that the lottery of one’s birth location does not affect one’s survival – in every country.
In addition to leading the WBFA, Mrs. Saraki is the Newborn Champion for Save the Children Nigeria, the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwifes, the Grand Patron of White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria and the Champion for White Ribbon Alliance Global,