PREGNANCY AND MENTAL HEALTH

In May of every year, the world celebrates maternal mental health awareness and 16-22 May 2016 was World Mental Health Awareness week. There was a lot of conversation on social media around mental health which was awesome because mental health is an issue that is usually talked about in hush hush tones and whispers. Nobody really wants to admit to having a mental health issue so it was really great to see people talk so openly about it. Let’s face it: at one point or another in our lives, we have all been faced with at least one mental health problem or another; whether depression, anxiety, mood swings or eating disorders.

In the words of Glenn Close, award winning American actress, “what mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affects not only individuals but their families as well“.

However, in all of the conversations, I scarcely came upon any that talked about mental health in pregnancy and pregnancy related mental health issues. Does this mean that pregnant women do not have mental health issues? Absolutely not! In fact, they are more at risk of developing mental health problems or having an exacerbation of an already existing mental health problem.

Pregnancy, though a cause for joy, is usually a challenging period for most women due to the fact that there are a lot of changes and adjustments that go on both inside and outside the body during this period.

Some common mental health issues associated with pregnancy include:

Anxiety- a lot of pregnant women suffer from anxiety during pregnancy, especially if it is their first. They may become anxious of how the pregnancy will affect their bodies (every woman is bound to gain weight during pregnancy and only very few regain their former weight and body shape after child birth), about whether they are capable of carrying the pregnancy to term and the baby’s health or generally about things that could go wrong in the pregnancy. For those who have had past experiences of a difficult pregnancy or child birth, they may become anxious of the experiences being repeated.

Depression- depression, like anxiety is very common in women during pregnancy. In developed countries, where women are screened for depression during pregnancy, about 15-20% of pregnant women turn out to be depressed. In developing countries such as Nigeria, there is no data to this effect and statistics may be higher. Pregnant women may become depressed for a lot of reasons, some of which include; an unplanned pregnancy, stress during pregnancy, relationship or marital stress, having unrealistic expectations concerning the baby, lack of social or familial support, previous traumatic experiences in pregnancy, having a sick or unsettled baby and a family history of pregnancy related or genetic illnesses.

 

mothers_cv2

photo credit: creative vantage

Eating disorders- generally, women tend to have larger and exotic appetites during pregnancy. In some women who already have eating disorder problems, this may become exacerbated during pregnancy and can have serious health effects on both mother and child.

 

Post-natal depression- this is when a woman develops depression sometime during the first few weeks after child birth. If left untreated, it can go on for about a year and may affect the level of care a mother gives to her baby. Guess what- men also suffer from post-natal depression!

Post-Partum psychosis- this is a very serious mental health problem that poses serious risk for both mother and child. Some sufferers may go on to commit suicide or murder their babies. It does not usually resolve itself fully without treatment.

Other mental health issues that may be associated with pregnancy and child birth include; bipolar or multiple personality disorders, schizophrenia, substance use and addiction.

Now that we have talked about the problems, what are the solutions or treatment options?

First and foremost, having a mental health problem is nothing to be ashamed of because a whole lot of other people also have the same problems and there is always help for those who seek it. Keeping quiet about your mental health problems only makes you sink deeper into them.

According to Hauwa Abbas, COO Silver Lining for the Needy Initiative, It is vital to continue stressing the importance antenatal and postnatal care plays in preventing harm to mother and child. For this reason, we must increase efforts in training and ensure health care providers incorporate basic mental health topics into physical care education for expectant and nursing mothers in Nigeria.”

So, here are a few tips for overcoming, dealing with or treating mental health problems in pregnancy

  • Be open about your problems; know that you are not alone.
  • Have a solid support base during this period; spouses, family, close friends that you can always talk to about how you feel and who will always be ready to help you.
pregnant-woman2

Young daughter listening to her pregnant mother’s bare belly. Photo credit: Jose Luis Palaez Inc via getty images

  • Talk to your doctor during your ante-natal visits about any emotional changes you may be experiencing. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist who deals with such cases.
  • Know your history: a lot of mental problems are genetic and usually may not be resolved so easily. Knowing if you or any member of your family have any history of mental health issues will help you prepare thus reducing the risk of further complications. If you are also on any drugs that treat mental illness such as antidepressants, you should talk to your doctor; you may need to be taken off the drugs before you get pregnant because some of these drugs may have a negative effect on the baby but ensure you talk to your doctor before you stop medication.
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals
  • Find time regularly to do something you enjoy, this helps you relax and lifts your mood.
  • Get regular sleep.

maternal mental health1Finally, to the spouses of all pregnant women out there: understand that she is not being cranky or difficult, she just may be dealing with pregnancy related mental health problems and SHE NEEDS YOU AT THIS TIME!

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EXCITEMENT IN JIGAWA AS SLNI CELEBRATES WORLD HEALTH DAY & WORLD MALARIA DAY 2016 WITH PREGNANT WOMEN IN HADEJIA & DUTSE

Before the 7th of April, my hausa vocabulary was practically non-existent despite one of my very best friends being hausa (shame on me). Now, I can boast of knowing at least two hausa expressions. Want to know what they are??? Read on…

On the 7th and 8th of April, the women (and men) of Hadejia, Jigawa state could not contain their joy as SLNI had her first health program after opening her office in Dutse,  Jigawa State. The programs were held in three health facilities: Kofar Arewa and Gauna Primary Health Care Centers as well as the Hadejia General Hospital as part of SLNI activities to celebrate World Health Day 2016. In total, there were over 500 women in attendance.

On 25tH of April (World Malaria Day), it was the turn of the women in Dutse as SLNI brought a silver lining to them with a program at the Dutse General Hospital which had over 280 women in attendance.

Highlights of the programs included but were not limited to;

Health talks on:

Importance of exclusive breastfeeding

DSC_4316The women were educated on the concept of exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months, why breast milk is best for baby and the gains of breastfeeding for both child and mother. This was a real eye opener for a number of the women present and they were very excited to have their questions answered.

Importance of child spacing

One of the matrons at the event explained this in detail, highlighted the reasons why every mother should consider spacing her children and various methods that can be used to achieve this.

Other talks included a talk on the stages in pregnancy, another on personal hygiene and clean environment after which the talks were concluded with a talk and demonstration on proper hand washing.

Health Checks

DSC_5655The nurses and matrons at the PHCs conducted blood pressure and other tests on the women and provided treatment and counseling where necessary

Distribution of birthing kits, mosquito nets and vitamin supplements

This was probably the high point of the program. The women could not contain their excitement as birthing kits and mosquito nets were handed out to each of them. In addition to these, the women also got vitamin C and Folic acid supplements which they were encouraged to take every day for proper development of the foetus.

According to Dr Bulangu, the Director, Disease Control and Surveillance, Jigawa State Ministry of Health, “more community oriented programs like this are needed in Jigawa State. Indigenes should take full advantage of the services provided and do their part in ensuring the sustainability of such initiatives”

Needless to say, the event was a very exciting and interesting one and here are the two expressions I promised at the beginning…

“Muna nu na godiya ga wanna kungiya”

“Allah ya sa masu albarka”

Ask the next hausa speaking person you come across for their meanings.

HANDLING MALARIA IN PREGNANCY

world_malaria_new_sliderIn observance of World Malaria Day, April 25, 2016, the severity of malaria in pregnant mothers inspired this write-up as part of our Maternal Monday series of health issues. In addition, women are the majority of care-givers in families, and studies show that a significant relationship exists between a mother’s health-seeking behaviour and the outcome of a child’s illness. Therefore, it becomes very important to safeguard the health of mothers-to-be in this crucial double-edged fight to #EndMalaria in pregnant women and by extension, children.

So what is Malaria?

Malaria is a life-threatening, blood-borne disease caused by parasites transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria and they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected person. Once an infected mosquito bites a person and transmits the parasites, those parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying the red blood cells. The most common parasite found in Nigeria is Plasmodium falciparum.

Why Pregnant Women?

Pregnant women are more susceptible to malaria and have more severe symptoms than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women have a higher risk of severe anaemia; heavy parasite loads; higher rates of miscarriage, stillborn, premature labour/delivery, low-birth-weight newborns, newborn death and ultimately maternal death. Although a rare occurrence, malaria can pass from the mother to her unborn child, also known as congenital malaria. In high-transmission areas such as Nigeria, P. falciparum infections are most pronounced for women in their first pregnancy.

What Should Pregnant Women Do?

Prevention of malaria in pregnancy relies on two main strategies:images(2)

  • Providing and encouraging pregnant women to use long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) and
  • Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP)

 

 

These interventions are provided through Focused Antenatal Care (FANC) programmes. Therefore, pregnant women are strongly encouraged to attend FANC once pregnancy is confirmed, which is usually in the first trimester.

Therefore:

  • Pregnant women in Nigeria should receive IPTp, which involves taking at least three (3) doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) during their pregnancy
  • Pregnant women are particularly encouraged to demand for IPTp three (3) times during their FANC visits. One dose of SP is given at each scheduled FANC visit after the first trimester, with at least one month between the doses
  • Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) has been found to be safe for pregnancy

Recent studies in Nigeria prove that IPTp caused significant reductions in maternal anaemia, heavy parasite loads, perinatal death and higher mean birth weight of newborns. However, for IPTp to work effectively, pregnant women must demand for IPTp. Most importantly, health workers at FANC facilities should communicate better with pregnant women in order to achieve this since they are the primary contacts of pregnant women during FANC visits. Remember, keep using authentic long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) and always seek proper testing/diagnosis and treatment from a certified health facility. Together, we can #EndMalariaForGood

End-Malaria

HAEMOPHILIA: THE SILENT KILLER

Every year, on April 17, the World celebrates World Haemophilia Day but up until Friday evening, everything I knew about haemophillia was limited to our little discussions back in my undergraduate genetics classes about sex-linked genetic disorders. Even then, it was still something that we considered to be “one of those oyinbo people sickness” and it was one of those diseases one only remembers when you have to study in case it turns out to be one of the exam questions.

Little did I know that this was a real problem faced by real Nigerians and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have been invited to the Haemophillia Foundation of Nigeria fundraising gala to celebrate World Haemophillia Day 2016.

So, for those of us who are just like me before Friday, please permit me to present you the facts about haemophilia.

What is Haemophillia?

Haemophilia is a genetic disorder that impairs the body’s ability to control blood clotting so that a person can bleed continuously both internally and externally for longer periods without stop.haemphilia 3

Who can get haemophilia?

Anybody can get Haemophillia. However, males are more affected by the disorder than females. Females are usually asymptomatic carriers who can pass the genes on to their children.

Is it hereditary?

Yes, it is hereditary. A mother or father can pass it on to their children.

How can I know if I, my child or someone I know has haemophilia?

Usually, there are warning signs that should make you suspect such as internal or external bleeding episodes which can go on for prolonged periods of time, swollen joints and joint pains.

There are definitive tests that can be carried out to be sure if a child or adult is haemophiliac and to find out the type of haemophilia (either A or B) which is important for treatment.

Can it be prevented?

Presently, there are no known methods for preventing haemophilia.

Is there a cure?

There is currently no known cure for haemophilia. There are however, treatments to replace clotting factors in the case of a bleeding episode and other ways to manage the condition.

What are the available treatments?

Treatments consists of drugs and injectables to replace clotting factors (factor VII, VII or IX). There are also corrective surgeries that can be carried out in the case of joint deformities, which is one of the major complications of the disorder.

Haemophilia facts

  • WHO statistics says 1 in 10,000 persons have hemophilia. In Nigeria with 170,000,000 persons, we should have about 17,000 persons. As at April  2016, we only have 252 persons on record identified. Therefore, almost 99% unidentified
  • Most unknown deaths during childbirth and circumcision may have occurred because these patients had bleeding disorders and did not know
  • bleeding can occur at any time and at any part of the body both internal and external
  • complications include joint damagehaemophilia 1
  • it is not the same as sickle cell

Who can I go to for help?

There is a World Haemophilia Foundation www.wfh.org which is the central body that provides information and care for haemophilia patients around the world. On a national level, there are Haemophilia foundations in over 100 countries in the world and Nigeria is not an exception. There are also regional haemophilia foundations in Nigeria.

For more information, or if you feel you or anybody you know may have  this condition, please contact:

Megan Adediran, Executive Director         Oge Ohadomere, North Central Co-ordinator
Haemophilia Foundation of Nigeria           Haemophilia Foundation of Nigeria
NC7 Jema’a Road, Kaduna                             Tel: +2348033116370
Tel: +234 8033206779.
Email: megan@haemo.org.ng                      Email:ogeohadomere@gmail.com
Twitter:@meganhfn
Skype:exquisitebuckie

                                                                                                             Article by: Celestina Obiekea

 

DIABETES

Due to the increase in deaths from non-communicable diseases worldwide, for the 2016 #WorldHealthDay celebration, the World Health Organization is focusing on non-communicable diseases, with special emphasis on #Diabetes, a chronic disease with increasing prevalence worldwide. The International Diabetes Federation reports that as of 2015, out of the 415 million people worldwide who have diabetes, 1.56 million are Nigerians. We know that case reporting is still an issue in the Nigerian Healthcare system so, this figure may not truly represent the true statistics. However, it is still cause for concern.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder where there are elevated levels of glucose in the blood. This may be due to any of the following reasons:

  • The body does not produce an insulin to transport the glucose in the blood to the cells
  • The body does not produce enough insulin
  • The cells of the body do not respond properly to the insulin produced

Over time, too much glucose in the blood can cause serious damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart and may even lead to loss of limbs.

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of Diabetes:

  1. Type 1: the pancreas produce little or no insulin. It is commonly referred to as insulin dependent or juvenile diabetes ad is currently increasing in the teenage population.
  2. Type 2: the cells of the body does not respond to the insulin produced and is commonly referred to as non-insulin dependent or adult onset diabetes
  3. Gestational or pregnancy induced: occurs when a woman with no prior diabetes develops high blood glucose levels in pregnancy

What causes Diabetes?

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is still unknown and may be largely due to genetic factors, type 2 is generally due to insulin resistance or the body producing too little insulin. Gestational diabetes is believed to be caused by pregnancy hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone and human placental lactogen which make the body insulin resistant.

Who can get Diabetes?

In the past, it was the general belief that only adults can get diabetes. This is not true. Anybody can get diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is even more common in young people while type 2 is more common in adults. As we know, only pregnant women can get gestational diabetes.

Are there any risk factors for Diabetes?

Obesity, lack of exercise, smoking are general risk factors for diabetes. Genetics may also play an important role, especially for type 1.

How can I know if I have Diabetes?

There are several tests one can get to find out if one has diabetes. These tests generally measure the amount of glucose in the blood. Examples of such tests include; Fasting plasma glucose, Plasma glucose, Glycated haemoglobin etc. The World Health Organization has recommended values which tells if a person has diabetes or not. Your Doctor will be able to tell you this.

Is there a cure?

Presently, there is no known cure for diabetes. However, there are drugs one can take to manage the condition and help people who have diabetes live longer.

What are the available treatments?

For diabetes type 1, treatment is majorly insulin injections. There are drugs which can be used in the management of type 2 and gestational diabetes. In addition, lifestyle changes such as exercising, dietary changes, avoiding smoking, surgery to aid weight reduction etc. may aid the management of type 2 diabetes

What should be avoided?

The biggest risk factor for diabetes is excess weight. If you are trying to prevent or control diabetes, healthy diet is very important; cut down on your sugar and eat more of carbohydrates that have high fiber content, cut down on fats and foods that generally have high cholesterol levels, unsaturated fats from fish and plant sources such as olive oil is best, eat regularly (try not to skip breakfast) and maintain a constant calorie intake.

What else should I do?

Whether you are trying to prevent diabetes or you are already diabetic, take note of the following

  • Eat healthy balanced meals
  • Exercise frequently
  • Monitor your blood sugar level by having regular tests
  • Other tests such as blood pressure, kidney, eye tests etc. are very important
  • Monitor your cholesterol level
  • Regular feet examinations and care of the feet; prevent cuts and bruises as much as possible

For more information and facts about diabetes, go to WHO/diabetes

 

AUTISM IN CHILDREN

autism-ribbonThere are many children with autism in Nigeria. About 1 in 100 children have autism. You cannot always tell that a child has autism just by looking at them. Because of this, autism is sometimes called a hidden disability. Sadly, autism lasts throughout the child’s lifetime. This means that autistic children grow into autistic adults. This can be challenging for family members who have to care for young ones who are autistic. More worrisome is the stigma attached to autism in Nigeria. The world celebrated World Autism Day on April 2 with the hashtag #WorldAutismAwarenessDay. This piece aims to educate and enlighten the public, and inspire anyone raising an autistic child.

What is Autism?

Autism is disability of the brain which affects how a child communicates or relates to other people. It affects the child because it causes difficulty in making sense of the world around them. Each day, our brains interpret (understand) the things we see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and experience. But when someone’s brain has trouble interpreting these things, it can make it hard to talk, listen, understand, play, and learn.

A kid’s symptoms could be very mild, severe, or somewhere in the middle. As a result, it is also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because while all autistic children share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.

What to look out for

Remember, not every child with autism will find these things difficult because everyone with autism is different. However, a kid with autism spectrum disorder might:

symptoms-autism

  • have trouble learning the meaning of words
  • have trouble trying to speak
  • have learning disabilities such as spelling and writing problems (also known as dyslexia)
  • do the same thing over and over, like repeating the same word (also known as echolalia)
  • show poor coordination movements, also known as dyspraxia
  • have trouble adjusting to changes (like trying new foods or having a new teacher)
  • unusual attachment to certain objects
  • make little or no eye contact
  • display indifference
  • not take part in games or activities with other people
    • have other disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD),   epilepsy, hearing impairment and visual impairment

Some characteristics of autistic children can be positive behaviours:

  • They may be good at remembering information
  • They may be very good at something, e.g they may be good at maths, art or music
  • They can be good at learning how to do something when they see someone else doing it

What causes Autism?

No one knows what causes autism. However, scientists think there is a connection with genetic and environmental factors. Genetic means that it can pass from parents to their children because it runs in the family, just like diabetes. Sometimes, more than one person in a family may have autism. Other times, kids get it even if nobody in their family has autism. Scientists are still trying to understand how and why this happens. Hence, it is important to avoid certain misconceptions about autism. Autism is NOT a curse, nor is it contagious. It is not caused by a child’s upbringing or their social circumstances. It is also not the fault of the child with the condition.

Who is affected by Autism?

Children from all over the world with different cultural, religious and social backgrounds can be autistic. However, autism affects more boys (men) than girls (women). Many scientists think that the ratio of boys to girls with autism stands at 4:1.

Is there a cure?

Currently, there is no ‘cure’ for autism. However, there is a range of interventions – methods of enabling learning and development – which people may find to be helpful.

Getting Help with Autism

The earlier a child starts getting help, the better. It can be very difficult finding out that a child has an autism spectrum disorder. Still it helps to stay positive and informed. All autistic children can benefit from a timely diagnosis and access to appropriate services and support.

A diagnosis is the formal identification of autism, usually by a health professional such as a paediatrician or a psychiatrist. Speech therapists and special education teachers can also form part of the care team. Having a diagnosis is helpful for two reasons:

  • It helps autistic people (and their families) to understand why they may experience certain difficulties and what they can do about them
  • It allows people to access services and support

Your general or family doctor can refer you to a specialist who is able to make a diagnosis.

A parent is usually the first to think that something could be wrong. As a result, the parent is the first line of help in getting diagnosis to seeking specialist assistance. Patience and family support is essential. It is also important to have a circle or group of people that you can share experiences and relate with. Some organizations that work with children with special needs provide these opportunities. In Nigeria, an example is the Centre for Autism and Developmental Disabilities http://www.caddnigeria.org/. CADD helps to share information regarding autism screening, diagnosis and intervention available in various communities in order to enable parents to access such services.

When there is something that a person with autism does well, it should be encouraged and cultivated. Children with autism will have brighter futures when they have the support and understanding of their families, doctors, teachers, therapists, and friends. So remember to be a friend to autistic children. They need the collective support of everyone!

GROWTH IN EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING CHAMPIONS IN RURAL COMMUNITIES

Antibodies make up a major part of the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease causing invaders such as bacteria and viruses. At birth, a baby has no antibodies and only begins to make them as the immune system develops over the first few years of life. At this crucial period of a child’s life (especially at age 0-6 months), a child is completely dependent on its mother for these much needed antibodies. The only way a mother can adequately deliver these antibodies to her child is through BREASTFEEDING.

Breast milk contains a huge amount of antibodies that protect the child against bacteria and viruses that cause diseases such as pneumonia which is the third leading cause of infant mortality in Nigerian children.

In 2015, the World Bank reported Nigeria as having one of the lowest exclusive breastfeeding indices in Africa at 17%. This was very disturbing news for Maternal and Child care specialists in Nigeria and this led to a renewed need to address the issue of exclusive breastfeeding practices in Nigeria.

As part of her efforts to improve maternal and child health in Nigeria, Silver Lining for the Needy Initiative embarked on a series of community programs called Health For Future (HFF) outreaches that address health issues of women and children. One of the major activities in these community outreaches is a breastfeeding talk and exercise where we encourage exclusive breastfeeding among nursing mothers in Northern Nigeria. In the first quarter of 2016, we have undertaken 8 community outreach programs targeted at nursing and pregnant women where over 500 women have been reached. The programs are structured as an interactive community-level education and awareness outreach where we educate the women in the communities on:

  • The practice of exclusive breastfeeding; what it means and what it doesn’t
  • The advantages of exclusive breastfeeding
  • Best breastfeeding practices
  • Demystifying breastfeeding
  • Question and answers session on breastfeeding related issues

In addition to these, we also invite breastfeeding specialists who train selected nurses, midwives and birth attendants in these communities on proper breastfeeding practices so that they in turn can train women in the communities who come to them as a way of engendering community ownership of the issue and ensuring sustainability.

As part of the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, we explain how the mothers transfer protective antibodies along with other nutrients to their babies, protecting them from preventable diseases such as pneumonia, measles etc. in addition to the health benefits for the mothers themselves. The response from the women is usually one of positive enthusiasm, it is so easy to see that they are happy to have people come and educate them about this issue and have some of their questions answered. This generally emboldens the women and much to our excitement, the women almost immediately begin to show a change in attitude towards breastfeeding. Fatima, a participant from Piwoyi community is not even bothered by our cameras as she breastfeeds her baby in public and when asked if she would not mind her picture taken, she replies:

Participant  answers question during the interractive game sesssion

 

 

No, it does not bother me. Breast milk is best for baby and I don’t have to spend money buying baby formula…

 

 

One of the major feed backs from these women is the fact that a lot of them introduce solid foods such as pap or maize porridge (similar to custard) and water at an early age because they are concerned with the fact that they might not be producing enough breast milk to sustain their babies. We encourage them to continue to breastfeed and to do so for as many times as the baby needs to be fed while for those who truly have problems with breast milk production, we advise them on dietary changes and some practices that may help to facilitate an increase in breast milk production.

These women in turn become breastfeeding champions in their communities, where they demystify the concept of exclusive breastfeeding by practicing it themselves, talking about it openly with other women, encouraging other women to also engage in exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives.

We intend to continue and reach as many women in as many communities in Northern Nigeria and we are optimistic that by the end of 2016, the practice of exclusive breastfeeding in this region would have been exponentially increased.

DISCUSSING GENDER PARITY AS WE CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Gender parity is a term used to describe a situation where there are equal proportion of boys and girls, men and women in a specific attribute or variable. For example, in education or the workplace.

It is a fact that society has always, from time immemorial, expected women to be less of everything – less intelligent, less important, in fact, in some places, less human. This year, the special focus of the International Women’s Day is the issue of gender parity and how we can create a world where men and women have equal opportunities and equal access to education, hence, increasing their chances of becoming CEOs and leaders in every aspects of human endeavor.

The most important determinant of a country’s success and competitiveness is its human resource which is seen in the talents of its people, half of which are women. So, if a country fails to harness this half of its resources, it is simply reducing its chances of success by half!

In Nigeria, we see gender parity in all areas of life: In Education; where boys far outnumber girls in the classrooms. For instance, in my Master’s degree class, we were seven men and three ladies. In government; where over 80% of ministers and officials are men.

In the last two decades, the world has achieved great strides in eliminating gender disparity in all areas. However, the World Economic Forum gender gap report of 2014 reports that there is still a 60% gender gap for economic participation and opportunities worldwide. For me, 60% is a lot of disparity and we should not wait another century for this gap to be closed. We need to act NOW and FAST!

Need reasons why gender parity is much more than a gender issue? Here are a few:

  • Ensuring that more women have equal access to education at all levels leads to increased development and increased positive perception of the country.
  • Increasing the number of women in the workforce leads to increased productivity because now, there would be more hands doing the work.
  • Ensuring that more women have equal seats in government also leads to greater productivity and better standards of living  through women’s greater interest in their children’s health, education, welfare and other success drivers.

So how do we ensure that there is a gender parity in these areas?

  1. Gender mainstreaming: we need to develop a solid strategy for gender mainstreaming so that women are part of the conversation at all levels, especially in the formulation of policies that would affect them directly or indirectly.
  2. Help women and girls achieve their dreams and ambitions: by being role models to young girls and women everywhere and giving them the necessary support in all areas.
  3. Build supportive work environments by eliminating conscious and unconscious bias: organizations can introduce aspects of inclusive leadership and ways to eliminate gender bias as well as send an organization wide message that bias is unacceptable and put strict punitive measures in place for defaulters.
  4. Illuminate the path to leadership: women need to advocate for each other better and organizations need to illuminate the career paths and opportunities matching the skills and ambitions of the women they employ
  5. Value women and men’s contributions equally: we need to do away with the mind-set that it is a man’s world. Hence, women’s voices and contributions do not matter. Women should not have to struggle to be heard. Instead, the contributions of men and women should be valued equally.

Finally, I leave you with the words of Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group President “Gender equality doesn’t require trade-offs; it only has benefits. And the benefits accrue to everyone, not just women and girls. Societies benefit and, as even men are beginning to understand, economies benefit, too

WORLD AIDS DAY: GETTING TO ZERO

 

images-for-world-aids-day

HIV infection causes AIDS to develop. However, it is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. Without treatment, the HIV infection is allowed to progress and eventually it will develop into AIDS in the vast majority of cases. HIV virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, perinatal transmission (mother to child), and blood transmission. HIV testing can identify infection in the early stages. This allows the patient to use prophylactic (preventive) drugs which will slow the rate at which the virus replicates, delaying the onset of AIDS.

AIDS patients still have the HIV virus and are still infectious. Someone with AIDS can pass HIV to someone else.  In Nigeria, 93% of women and 96% of men age 15-49 have heard of HIV/AIDS, HIV awareness is almost universal amongst urban women and men and is low amongst rural women and men, 26% of men and 37% of women have comprehensive knowledge about it.(NDHS 2013), 3.1 percent of Nigeria within the age range  15- 49 is living with HIV in Nigeria, Nigeria is second largest number of people living with HIV.(CIA world fact book 2012 reviewed 2014).  HIV/AIDS can be reduced through creation of awareness, voluntary counselling and testing, and also knowing the ABC of HIV/AIDS which are: abstinence, be faithful and condom. It can actually get to zero if all necessary preventive measures are being followed and treatment are being done on time then the  theme for the World AIDS Day 2015  will be achieved.

EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING; LIFE SAVER OF BORN TOO SOON

images

Today being 17th November 2015 is the observance of World Prematurity Day (WPD) which started in the year 2011 by a European foundation for the care of new infants that are born too soon and has since been observed in more than 50 countries including Nigeria. Fifteen (15) million babies are born prematurely each year, accounting for more than 1 in 10 of all the babies born worldwide; preterm is the leading cause of death among children under five (5) years of age and is responsible for nearly one million deaths in the year 2013.

According to the World Health Organisation in 2013, Nigeria had a total number of 773,600 preterm births making it the third amongst countries with the greatest number of preterm births in the world. There are many diseases associated with prematurity while not all pre-term babies experience complications, being born too early can cause short and long-term health problems for preemies.

There are several ways to help the ‘born too soon’ to survive and the most important of them is exclusive breast feeding. The benefit of breast milk extends well beyond basic nutrition, in addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six (6) month of life, breast milk is packed with disease fighting antibodies that protects your babies from infections and the main antibodies at work in the breast milk is called Secretory Immunoglobin that is present in large amounts of colostrum in the first milk your body produces for your baby.

The antibodies guard against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestine, nose and throat as pre-term babies are more vulnerable to infections due to under developed immune system. Breast milk protects against stomach viruses, ear infections, breathing problems, heart and brain complications as well as gastrointestinal problems. All these diseases and infections are most common in pre term babies. Breast feeding is also beneficial to the mothers as it reduces the risk of breast cancer. Exclusive breast feeding is the most cost effective and sure way of keeping your baby alive.