Human Virology Institute utilises multi-country project to improve maternal, newborn health

By Abujah Racheal

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) is utilising a multi-country research consortium to improve maternal and newborn health in conflict-affected areas in Nigeria.

The Chief Executive Officer of the institute, Dr Patrick Dakum, made the disclosure in Abuja on Sunday when he featured at the flagship News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum.

NAN reports that with funding by UK Aid and the UK Government, an 11.3-million-dollar contract will be led by the consortium, comprising the International Rescue Committee (IRC) alongside IHVN and  Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Others are the Johns Hopkins university-wide Centre for Humanitarian Health, the Somali Research and Development Institute and Université Catholique de Bukavu (Democratic Republic of Congo).

The partnership, tagged “Ensuring Quality Access and Learning for Mothers and Newborns in Conflict-Affected Contexts (EQUAL)”, would work to identify and fill evidence gaps that could ultimately improve policies, programming and outcomes for mothers and newborns. 

The five-year project will focus its research around the day of birth and the first week of life — the time frame with the highest number of newborn deaths globally.  

In 2019 alone, 2.4 million babies died in the first month of life, 75 per cent of which occurred in the first week. 

Dakum said that the consortium would conduct research in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, North East Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan — countries and regions where maternal and newborn mortality rates rank among the highest globally. 

He explained that “in Nigeria for example, 35 newborn babies die out of every 1,000 live births, a devastating statistic that is nearly 10 times higher than the risk faced by newborns in high-income countries.”

Dakum said that in addition to delivering cutting-edge research, EQUAL would invest in opportunities for partners and key stakeholders to share expertise and strengthen technical, research and operational capacities. 

“This includes dedicated training and mentorship for female researchers as well as using the research findings to help inform national health policies and guidelines.”  

He said that the five-year project would focus its research around the day of birth and the first week of life — the timeframe with the highest number of newborn deaths globally. 

He said that in Nigeria, IHVN would collaborate with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, the Government of Yobe and the Faculty of Shehu Sule College of Nursing and Midwifery, to conduct research on the quality of midwifery education and practice. 

“Specifically, we will conduct a five-year assessment of the recently implemented Community Midwifery programme, to examine the effectiveness these midwives have in addressing gaps in maternal and neo-natal health in Yobe State’s rural communities.

“Of particular interest are factors affecting midwifery workforce, participation, retention, performance and personal resilience during periods of increased insecurity,” he stated.