The Coca-Cola Company is set to launch a new program – The Safe BirthInitiative – to support the Ministries of Health in Nigeria and Ivory Coast to assist the countries to tackle the high incidence of maternal and newborn mortalities.
This was disclosed by theCoca-Cola Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) Group President, Brian Smith, during acourtesy visit to His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Ivory Coast.
The program will focus on strengthening the capacity of maternity and neonatal units in selectedpublic hospitals in Ivory Coast and Nigeria. With US$2 million grant from Coca-Cola to Medshare International Inc., the US-based not-for-profit NGO will source essential equipment,kits and supplies worth about US$20 million to enable safe deliveries and post-deliveryemergency care for both mothers and their newborns.
The program will also include the training of biomedical technicians and other appropriatehospital personnel by Medshare International on the operation, repair and maintenance of thedonated equipment as well as the reactivation of a huge stock of faulty or abandoned equipmentin public hospitals which is a major challenge for the country’s healthcare delivery system.
This intervention comes as Ivory Coast, which has enjoyed stability and one of the fastesteconomic growth rates since the end of a civil war in 2011, grapples with some of the highestmaternal and newborn mortality ratios globally. According to UNICEF’s 2016 State of theWorld’s Children report, 38 out of every 1,000 babies die within the first 28 days of birth while645 out of 100,000 women die during or shortly after child birth due to avoidable conditions. This translates to 31,000 newborns and 5,400 maternal deaths annually in a country with apopulation of 24 million people.
In Nigeria on the other hand, about 40,000 women and 260,000 newborns (excluding 300,000stillborn) die during or shortly after childbirth annually. About 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 crises in Nigeria and a major priority for the Government in itsresolve to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Brian Smith, Coca-Cola EMEA Group President stated, “The commitment to help promotesustainable development in our communities is a fundamental part of Coca-Cola’s strategy forsustainable business growth. This program which demonstrates this commitment will help savethe precious lives of many mothers and newborns and also support the remarkable efforts of theIvorian government at rebuilding this vibrant country”.
President Ouattara welcomed Coca-Cola’s support for the Health Ministry, noting that maternal and child health was an area the country recorded a weak performance under the MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MDGs). “Your new program will translate to improved healthcare andbudget savings which will be channeled to other needs” President Ouattara said, adding that hisAdministration has been able to drive fast growth in the economy at an average rate of 9% overthe last 5 years. “Our emphasis now is to boost social expenditure with a focus on health,education and youth employment in order reduce the poverty level further from 50% to about25% 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 theinitiative. “Coca-Cola’s support through the Safe Birth Initiative will significantly strengthen ourhealthcare 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 playa dominant role in our distribution and retail network. Just like our 5by20 Initiative, the SafeBirth Initiative which we will be implementing in Ivory Coast and Nigeria is a platform enablingus to promote the wellbeing of women, in this case, as it relates to the special but vulnerableexperience of childbirth”.