Nigeria gets $500m from World Bank to Improve maternal and child health

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By Lexi Elo

The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $500 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to significantly improve maternal, child, and nutrition services for women and children in Nigeria

By improving access to higher quality services, the new development financing will help Nigeria to achieve its “Saving Million Lives (SOML) Initiative,” which was launched by the Federal Ministry of Health in October 2012 to save the lives of the more than 900,000 women and children who die every year in Nigeria from largely preventable causes.

“Saving Million Lives is a bold response from the Nigerian government to improve the of the country’s mothers and children so they can survive illness and thrive.  This, in turn, will also contribute to the social and economic development of ’s largest economy,” said Benjamin Loevinsohn, a lead health specialist and task team leader for the new project.

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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.

To address the challenge of its 900,000 maternal and child deaths, the SOML Initiative focuses on (i) increasing the use of high-impact reproductive and child and nutrition interventions; (ii) improving the quality of these services; (iii) strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems and measurement data; (iv) encouraging private sector innovation; and (v) increasing transparency in management and budgeting for Primary Health Care (PHC) in the country.

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

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 counseling and testing among women attending antenatal care, and preventing new malaria infections among children by using insecticide- treated bed nets when they sleep.

Federal and state governments will also receive incentive payments for better tackling governance and management issues in the sector and for improving the quality of basic health services.

“This welcome new Programme for Results operation for will also strengthen Nigeria’s own health system and development footing while also providing an important mechanism for bringing both Government and development partners together around a commitment to achieve specific, tangible results,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, Nigeria Country Director.

The programme will be implemented under the Federal Ministry of Health, in close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Finance which will provide the financial oversight role.

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