IHVN Launches Initiative To Address Stillbirths In Nigeria

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A midwife listening for the heartbeat of a pregnant woman’s baby.

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) and the International Research Centre for Excellence (IRCE) have taken significant steps to tackle the issue of stillbirths in the country.

These efforts include launching a project aimed at collaborating with stakeholders to use evidence-based data for policy-making.

The principal investigator, IHVN/IRCE, Mrs. Oghome Emembo revealed this on Thursday in Abuja at a key stakeholder meeting on “Improving Nigeria’s Capacity to Use Data on Registered Stillbirths for Decision-making & Planning ‘SPEED Project'”.

Emembo, who is also the SPEED project’s principal investigator, said that the tool aimed to provide policymakers with valuable insights into stillbirth trends in the country and other relevant indicators that can inform policy-making decisions.

“By making stillbirth data more visible and easily accessible, the FMoH hopes to raise awareness about stillbirths as a public concern.

“In addition to the DAVT, IHVN plans to work with the Federal Ministry of Health to produce a comprehensive data report. This report will be based on an analysis of stillbirth data from the FMoH District Health Information Software (DHIS 2),” she said.

She said that the findings from this analysis would be used to conduct a health economic assessment, examining the feasibility of proposed policy options.

The goal was to communicate the economic implications of stillbirths in the country, highlighting the need for effective policies and interventions to reduce stillbirth rates.

“Furthermore, the FMOH is actively advocating for the formulation, adoption, implementation and improvement of relevant policies, regulatory frameworks, legislations and systems that can impact stillbirth rates in Nigeria.

“By advocating for these changes, the FMoH aims to create an enabling environment for the prevention and reduction of stillbirths,” she said.

The initiatives undertaken would demonstrate a comprehensive approach to addressing stillbirths in the country.

“Through the development of the data analytics and visualisation tool, policymakers will have access to crucial information to guide their decision-making processes.

“The comprehensive data report and health economic assessment will further support the case for effective policies and interventions.

“The advocacy efforts seek to bring about necessary changes in policies and systems to reduce stillbirth rates in the country,” she said.

She said that the alarming statistics of the country’s stillbirth rate gave birth to the project.

“The Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health (D4H) Initiatives Global Grants Programme has sub-awarded IHVN Nigeria, IRCE to implement the SPEED project,” she said.

It would be a 15-month project aimed at using the country’s stillbirth data to influence decision-making.

By combining these initiatives, national health management information system manager, FMoH, Mr. John Bisong said that the ministry aimed to tackle the issue of stillbirths in the country head-on, with the ultimate goal of improving maternal and child health outcomes and reducing the burden of stillbirths on Nigerians.

Bisong said that the stakeholder engagement was beneficial because it afforded all players the opportunity to identify existing gaps in the information system that relate to stillbirth in the country.

“Once we begin to identify those gaps or challenges, recommendations are made to begin to improve the stillbirth data in the country.

“So many strategies can be deployed to reduce stillbirth, for example, advocacy, awareness, mentorship, documenting, and collecting data because people need to be aware of the importance of proper documentation and also the data quality process,” he said.

Science Nigeria reports that stillbirth incidences in the country are a public health tragedy with adverse effects and implications on human and national well-being.

Nigeria’s stillbirth burden is 36.2 per cent in West & Central Africa (UNICEF January 2023 Data report), with a stillbirth rate (SBR) of 42.9 per cent as of 2021 (UNICEF January 2022 Data report), placing Nigeria second among countries with high stillbirth rates in the world.

One of the root causes of this problem is the under-utilisation of data on registered stillbirths for decision-making, characterised by the inability to use data from registered stillbirths for advocacy and policy influencing.

Racheal Abujah
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