The World Bank has approved 500 million dollars International Development Association (IDA)  credit to improve maternal and child and nutrition services for women and children in Nigeria.

This is contained in a statement by Ms Melanie Mayhew, World Bank’s Communication Officer on Monday in Abuja.

The statement said that “by improving access to higher quality health services, the new development financing will help Nigeria to achieve its Saving One Million Lives (SOML) Initiative’’.

It said the Federal Government had launched the initiative in October 2012 to save the lives of more than 900,000 women and children who die every year in Nigeria from 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,’’ the statement quoted Benjamin Loevinsohn, a Lead Health Specialist and Task Team Leader for the project,’’ as saying.

According to the statement, Nigeria accounts for 14 per cent of all annual maternal deaths worldwide, second only to India at 17 per cent.

It said that Nigeria also accounted for 13 per cent of all global deaths of children under the age of five, again second only to India at 21 per cent.

The statement noted that for the initiative to address the challenge of its 900,000 maternal and child deaths, it would focus on increasing the use of high-impact reproductive and child health and nutrition interventions.

Other areas of intervention are improving the quality of these services, strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems and measurement data.

The rest are encouraging private sector innovation and increasing transparency in management and budgeting for Primary Health Care in the country, it said.

It noted that the World Bank’s support for SOML would utilise the Program-for-Results (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.

“Others are rates of contraceptive use, Vitamin A supplementation, skilled birth attendance, HIV counselling and testing among women attending antenatal care.

“It is also for preventing new malaria infections among children by using insecticide-treated bed nets when they sleep.

“The 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 welcome new Program for Results operation for health will also strengthen Nigeria’s own health system and development footing,’’ the statement said.

It quoted Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, Nigeria Country Director as saying that “it will also provide an important mechanism for bringing both government and development partners together around a commitment to achieve specific tangible results.’’

It said that the programme would 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 statement disclosed that the four-year new health operation was expected to commence its implementation on Aug. 1, 2015 and would end in December 2019.

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