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Midwives at a health facility in Ilorin

The CMNH blog is a space for our academics and PhD students to showcase their research projects and areas of interest for the wider community to read and enjoy!

Each post will include the contact details of our featured writer. We encourage you to get in touch with them for further discussion of the topics raised. If you would like to write a blog post for the website please contact Tim Garner.


Nigeria has the second highest number of maternal deaths and the third highest number of neonatal deaths, globally. It is estimated that more than one-third of these deaths occurred around the time of birth and the first day after birth.

CMNH is enhancing the capacity of health workers in Life-Saving Skills in Essential Obstetric Care and Newborn Care, data collection and its use as well as quality improvement methodologies in Kwara State, Nigeria. We are working closely with Wellbeing Foundation Africa, the Kwara State Secretariat and Johnson and Johnson to implement this project.

The different interventions and activities will be captured in a 20-minute film that will be produced by long-standing supporters and volunteers, John and Lucie Baylis. In advance of the film, Lucie has compiled a blog post on their days of filming in Kwara state.

Monday 13th March 2017 – Day One

We visit a maternity facility in Illorin. Antenatal appointments are running in the clinic, babies are being delivered in the labour rooms, there is a busy theatre and a CMNH Skills Lab.

We have a conversation with an experienced doctor who wants her government to support health and education. She is probably quite right to point out that if Nigeria had the resources available in the US, for example, no mother or baby would ever die here again. She has a belief and trust, which we witness, that these staff are all doing so well with so little. If they had everything they needed their enthusiasm, commitment, hard work and dedication would surpass all normal obstetric expectations.

Kwara State Ministry of Health appear to recognise this potential. This project is offering something in this facility that is simple and effective: every Monday at midday, nurses, midwives and doctors are invited to attend the skills labs for up-date and revision of their emergency obstetric and neonatal training.

After filming/attending one of these sessions, we stand for a group photograph - everyone wants to be part of the picture. One midwife runs off calling back to me “my patient, my patient”, she really understands ‘patient first’. She returns a few moments later wearing a huge grin so pleased not to have missed the photograph but satisfied in the knowledge that her patient is safe. The actions of this midwife reassure me that this training and these skills labs are making a real difference.

Tuesday 14th March 2017 – Day Two

We set off with our trusted, punctual LSTM driver to visit Kwara State Ministry of Health in search of willing interviewees. The sun is scorching even by African standards by 10am, we take sanctuary in the air-conditioned office of a Ministry of Health official who is happy to talk to camera. Six people are waiting to see him in a small dark room, which we pass through on our way in.

We interrupt his breakfast, he is very welcoming and welcomes us to his office, to Illorin, to Kwara State and finally to Nigeria. He is wearing a massive smile, a neat hat and matching outfit. We busy about his office setting up the equipment. He oversees the programme in Kwara State and is enthusiastically proud of his involvement. He answers the questions to camera and then inevitably the moment the cameras are switched off we see the real passion behind why he is so grateful to be involved. We switch them on again and try and catch the passion that the cameras seemed to diminish.

LSTM’s Senior Technical Officer, Hauwa Mohammed, suggests we visit a midwife at a civil servant hospital. When we arrive, it becomes apparent that she is very reluctant to be filmed until I reassure her that I, too am a midwife, she cracks a grin and agrees to the interview.

There is no air conditioning here. We request to interview her with the antenatal clinic patients coming and going in the back ground but this suggestion is not acceptable. We settle for a bench outside the clinic with an uninspiring background but she is happy with this so we let the cameras roll while she explains her dedication to the program in a broad, deep local accent.

Again, once the cameras are switched off and a real smile is revealed and she hugs me, partly in relief that the process is over, she thanks me graciously for talking with her.

Satisfied that we have successfully captured all that we intended to by the end of Day Two we return to ‘dump’ the footage. This is very challenging with only intermittent electricity. We wait with anticipation to see if the valuable footage downloads, we celebrate every 10 minutes. We are two hours in when a bus full of hotel patrons return from their day of business, we know that in 5 minutes the drain on the electricity their arrival brings will inevitably plunge us into darkness. The download hits 100% as the lights go out.

Wednesday 15th March 2017 – Day Two

We set off for the training in Offa, the road is bumping but mostly tarmac, deep pot holes make it a jiggly journey but it is only one hour from Illorin. We pull in at our destination, we can see from the car that the light is great; the accommodation is going to be a pleasure to film in.

As we approach we hear singing from the building. I peer in through the window, the students are hanging on every word of the lecture. Fans spin fast from the front of the classroom keeping the nurses, doctors and midwives as cool as possible.

We were introduced and welcomed in true African style - we were thrown imaginary claps to catch. John apparently dropped his, the first time around and it was obviously important to do it again. Fortunately, he caught the second one.

It was a true privilege to witness this day. The facilitators were comprehensive, accurate, clear, experienced, articulate and motivated. They travelled that fine line between criticism and praise perfectly, correcting participants gently where necessary and praising perfection with group claps and huge grins.

I watched students who were uncomfortable with their lack of knowledge grow with confidence with the gentle guidance of a facilitator who was affectionately named “The First Lady”.

The course director set a wonderful example, dignified, hard-working and fair. He was last to take his lunch and first to give additional help to participants.

This team were obviously experienced and delivered an exceptional day, it was a pleasure to witness.