Soft drinks giant, Coca-Cola, has announced the launch of “The Safe Birth Initiative,” a new programme to aid the Health Ministries of Ivory Coast and Nigeria tackle high maternal and infant mortalities.
The pledge was made by the company’s Group President for Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA), Brian Smith while paying a courtesy visit to the President of Ivory Coast, His Excellency Alassane Ouattara.
The scheme will focus on bolstering the capacity of maternity and neonatal units in selected public hospitals in Ivory Coast and Nigeria. The effort would be spearheaded by Medshare International Inc, a U.S.-based not-for-profit NGO, with a $2 million grant from the soft drinks company. Medshare will source essential equipment, kits and supplies worth $20m to enable safe deliveries and post-delivery emergency care for both mothers and their newborns.
Medshare will also train hospital personnel such as biomedical technicians and others on the operation and maintenance of the donated equipment as well as resuscitating stockpiles of abandoned and faulty equipment in public hospitals which has been a major challenge for the country’s healthcare delivery system.
The much needed help comes as Ivory Coast, which has enjoyed stability and economic growth since emerging from civil war in 2011, grapples with one of the world’s highest maternal and new born mortality. According to UNICEF’s 2016 State of The World’s Children report, 38 out of 1,000 babies born in Ivory Coast die within the first 28 days of birth while 645 out of 100,000 women die during or shortly after childbirth due to avoidable conditions. This translates to 31,000 newborns and 5,400 maternal deaths annually in a country with a population of 24 million.
In Nigeria, the situation is even grimmer. About 40,000 women and 260,000 newborns which does not include stillborn die during or shortly after childbirth. Approximately 29% of the newborn deaths (90,000) occur in the first 24 hours of birth. For this reason, neonatal mortality is considered as one of the worst public health crisis in Nigeria and a major priority for government in its determination to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The commitment to help promote sustainable development in our communities is a fundamental part of Coca-Cola’s strategy for sustainable business growth. This program which demonstrates this commitment will help save the precious lives of many mothers and newborns and also support the remarkable efforts of the Ivorian government at rebuilding this vibrant country,” said the Coca-Cola EMEA president.
President Quattara welcomed Coca-Cola’s support for his country’s Health ministry, noting that maternal and child health was an area the country recorded a weak performance under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Your new programme will translate to improved healthcare and budget savings which will be channeled to other needs” Ouattara said, adding that his Administration has been able to grow the economy at an average rate of 9% over the last 5 years.
“Our emphasis now is to boost social expenditure with a focus on health, education and youth employment in order to reduce the poverty level further from 50% to about 25% by the end of my current tenure.”
Ivorian Minister of Health, Dr. Goudou Coffi, noted that improvement of maternal and newborn healthcare is one of the public health priorities of the country and thanked Coca-Cola for the initiative.
“Coca-Cola’s support through the Safe Birth Initiative will significantly strengthen our healthcare capacity and boost our resolve towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets in relation to maternal and newborn mortalities,” she said.
Peter Njonjo, President of Coca-Cola West Africa Business Unit said “Coca-Cola has a special relationship with women who are pillars of our business, especially in Africa where women play a dominant role in our distribution and retail network. Just like our 5 by2 0 Initiative, the Safe Birth Initiative, which we will be implementing in Ivory Coast and Nigeria is a platform enabling us to promote the wellbeing of women, in this case, as it relates to the special but vulnerable experience of childbirth.”