Oladimeji Ramon

Wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, says continuous investment in health care infrastructure is one of the ways by which the government can tackle the high rate of maternal and newborn mortality in the country.

She, however, added that the task could not be left to the government alone, stressing that private partnership was also very key.

Saraki spoke to our correspondent on Monday on the sidelines of the 2017 African Philanthropy Forum Annual Conference, which is holding at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The conference, with the theme, ‘African philanthropy in a challenging global context,’ is holding between October 30 and 31.

Saraki, who is the founder of the Wellbeing Foundation, an organisation working to address the scourge of maternal and newborn death in Africa, participated in a panel discussion on “The role of government in fostering homegrown philanthropy.”

She shared the stage with the Liberian Minister of Education, George Werner; the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Akintunde Oyebode; and the Director of Special Projects, Office of the President, African Development Bank, Sipho Moyo, at a session moderated by the founder of the Global Philanthropy Forum, Jane Wales.

Saraki, who noted that one in every six babies born in Nigeria died at birth, said it would take a combination of relentless advocacy, education and investment in infrastructure, among others, to reverse the trend.

She said, “No amount of effort is enough, what we have to do is continue to make sure that we reach our people with the demographic dividend and continue to try harder to make sure that every single child born in Nigeria is wanted; every single child born in Nigeria is cared for and now we really have to address it from the infrastructure point of view. That is why we are turning our own focus to primary health, family health, community health and to making sure that every health facility has trained workers to deliver that care. The government has to do more and the citizens have to do more as well.”

She described the place of private sector collaboration with government as hugely important, saying, “We have 191 million people in Nigeria. If we really want to cover the nation, we don’t really have a choice, we have to partner government and also development partners.”

Oyebode said Nigeria had an unemployment crisis on its hands where “35 per cent of the working population are either unable to find work or struggling within another unemployment category where the quality of work that is available isn’t commensurate with their skills.”

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