Prioritise Maternal Health, Invest in Micronutrient Supplements, Physician Tells Govt



Prioritise Maternal Health, Invest in Micronutrient Supplements, Physician Tells Govt
Some natural foods rich in micronutrients.


Towards bridging the gap in infant and maternal mortality in low- income -countries, such as Nigeria, a Consultant Public Health Physician, Dr Francis Ohanyido, has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria along with state governments to prioritise the health of their citizenry by investing in multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS), which is the gold standard requirement for the prevention of anaemia and other conditions that predispose pregnant women to premature death.

This is even as the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that Nigeria accounts for over 34 per cent of global maternal deaths while the lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or after an abortion for a Nigerian woman is one in 22 compared to one in 4900 in developed countries. The global health agency further identified anaemia in women of child bearing age, as one of the major causes of premature death in Nigerian mothers and children.

Multiple Micronutrient Supplements (MMS) is a formulation of multivitamins for pregnant women as identified by the United Nations that should help women who are going through pregnancy have better value in terms of nutrition for both them and their children.
Thus, in tackling maternal mortality headlong in the country.

Ohanyido, who is also country director of Vitamin Angels, advocates the use of MMS as a replacement for the routine iron and folic acid supplement (IFA) usually given to nursing and expectant mothers at the antenatal clinics. Although he appreciated the impact of IFA on maternal health so far, but he noted that global advancement in maternal care from IFA to MMS is best practice in reducing morbidity and mortality of vulnerable women and children.

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In a two-day media engagement and capacity building workshop on the importance of MMS in pregnancy, the consultant physician highlighted the benefits of MMS over IFA and why it is crucial for every pregnant woman in the country to have access to this gold standard micronutrient supplements. He also mentioned the need to improve knowledge and awareness of micronutrient deficiency control as well as effective implementation of public-private sector collaboration.

According to him “ Beyond the fact that MMS contains 15 micronutrients in comparison to the mere two in IFA, it has evidence-based findings that it can adequately nourish pregnant women, and drastically reduce mortality from postpartum haemorrhage, as it sufficiency beef up women’s nutrients needs in pregnancy.

“Other benefits of MMS from evidence-based research include reduction of still birth, reduction of small for gestational age, and has other advantages for the child in terms of good health, for the first 1000 days of life. It helps reduce the issues around infection because if the mother is doing well, it also passes to the child, in terms of quality outcomes of the child.

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“MMS also helps give supplementation in terms of the nutrient level for the mother that has gone through pregnancy. It has been observed that a lot of women going through pregnancy in Nigeria, especially in sub-communities are malnourished. So it’s very important that we introduce MMS and put it out in a way that is accessible to pregnant women in any community in Nigeria”.

Ohanyido further decried impacts of poor maternal nutrition, saying it has dire consequences for women and children, as micronutrient deficiencies can have lifelong impacts on a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development. He listed some of the essential micronutrients for women and children contain in MMS to include iron, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, and iodine among others.

Expressing optimism in the timely and gradual implementation of MMS in Nigeria, he remarked that countries like Indonesia and Haiti are enjoying the dividends of the intervention, as he urged stakeholders and governments to urgently tap into the invaluable resources of MMS for the huge health benefits it portents for the populace. He also noted that its production cost is at parity with IFA, as the nation will procure at a larger scale, which makes it an economical intervention.

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“Transition from IFA to MMS shouldn’t be something that we should break sweat over, because its something that can be done. I know that resources are lean, but I think as a country we, need to prioritise where we put our money, the lives of women and children should be top priority. And if we’re going to achieve the demographic dividend, it is those places we should be putting the money because those are the future of the country.

“Our primary healthcare for example, is almost comatose. Our health system is making people pay everything from out of pocket. If anybody is challenged healthwise, most Nigerians use money from their pockets and if the money they are asking is so high, the only thing left is for the person to go and die. This shows why most Nigerians are looking for solutions because they know they cannot afford hospital bills”, he decried.

Mr Christian Ugbo, pharmaceutical logistic specialist at Vitamin Angels, said: “Before now, MMS was not widely known in Nigeria.
“But with this project, I can say the technical services that we provide, strengthening the health system by building the capacity of health workers and community volunteers have increased their knowledge about evidence-based nutrition interventions.

“Ordinarily, knowledge transfer helps raise awareness and increase nutrition interventions’ acceptability’.








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