By Ndidi Chikwu
The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors have approved a US$500 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to significantly improve maternal, child, and nutrition health services for women and children in Nigeria. By improving access to higher quality health services, the new development financing will help Nigeria to achieve its “Saving One Million Lives (SOML) Initiative,” which was launched by the Federal Ministry of Health in October 2012 to save the lives of the more than 900,000 women and children who die every year in Nigeria from largely preventable causes. “Saving One Million Lives is a bold response from the Nigerian government to improve the health of the country’s mothers and children so they can survive illness and thrive. This, in turn, will also contribute to the social and economic development of Africa’s largest economy,” said Benjamin Loevinsohn, a Lead Health Specialist and Task Team Leader for the new project.
Nigeria accounts for 14% of all annual maternal deaths worldwide, second only to India at 17%. Similarly, Nigeria accounts for 13% of all global deaths of children under the age of five years, again second only to India at 21%.To address the challenge of its 900,000 maternal and child deaths, the SOML Initiative focuses on (i) increasing the use of high-impact reproductive and child health and nutrition interventions; (ii) improving the quality of these services; (iii) strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems and measurement data; (iv) encouraging private sector innovation; and (v) increasing transparency in management and budgeting for Primary Health Care (PHC) in the country. The World Bank’s support for SOML will utilize the Program-for-Results or PforR instrument to encourage a greater focus on results, increase accountability, improve measurements, strengthen management, and foster innovation. PforR funds will only be disbursed to the Federal and State governments for independently verified improvements in key services such as vaccination coverage among young children, rates of contraceptive use, Vitamin A supplementation, skilled birth attendance, HIV counseling and testing among women attending antenatal care, and preventing new malaria infections among children by using insecticide- treated bed nets when they sleep. Federal and State governments will also receive incentive payments for better tackling governance and management issues in the health sector and for improving the quality of basic health services.
“This new Program for Results operation for health will also strengthen Nigeria’s own health system and development footing while also providing an important mechanism for bringing both Government and development partners together around a commitment to achieve specific, tangible results,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, Nigeria Country Director. The program will be implemented under the Federal Ministry of Health, in close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Finance which will provide the financial oversight role. The new health operation is expected to start implementation on August 1, 2015 and will end four years later in December 2019. The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.8 billion people, the majority of whom live on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.