Data shows that malaria accounts for 11% of maternal deaths in Nigeria. While it is not the lion’s share of the factors that contribute to maternal deaths, it is a significant one. In a story supported by the Maternal Figures Solutions Journalism Fellowship funded by The Brown Institute for Media Innovation, Premium Times reporter Chiamaka Okafor explores the nation’s most recent strategic plan the National Malaria Strategic Plan 2014- 2020 and how it’s been implemented over the last few years. “Nigeria’s National Malaria Strategic Plans (NMSP) have, over the years, served as the blueprint for malaria control and elimination in the country, encompassing the objectives and targets,” writes Okafor.
Okafor’s reporting reveals that despite the plan’s success in making available anti-malarial drugs, challenges with the supply of mosquito nets and the health-seeking behaviors of pregnant women have persisted. During the course of reporting, Okafor traveled to three states in different regions across the country to see how the implementation of the plan differed. While she was met with numerous challenges, she was able to speak directly to health workers who are at the frontlines of implementing the plan and the women who benefit directly from it. One of the learnings from the story was on the usage of insecticide-treated nets.
Margaret Opoke, who was seven months pregnant as of the time of this report, said she receives intermittent treatment but says she has never received treated nets from the hospital.
Blessing Nwankwo, who is eight months pregnant, also says she did not receive any at the public antenatal clinic she attends adding that she does not know she is expected to sleep under a treated net for protection.
Interviews conducted by the reporter with several pregnant women show that many of them do not sleep under insecticide-treated nets.
“In terms of where we are, the strategic plan tried to ensure that every pregnant woman, at least 80 per cent, must have access to. You also know that the mode of delivery is through the antenatal clinics during antenatal care.
‘’We know that coverage for antenatal is still very low and so you would expect that if the mode of delivery for these interventions is through the antenatal clinics, the access to IPTp and LLIN is affected,” said Lynda Ozor, WHO malaria programme manager in Nigeria.
Okafor’s piece is the first published of the Maternal Figures fellowship. To date, we have given five fellowships to journalists reporting on a wide range of maternal health issues from emergency ambulance services in rural communities to the implementation of state policies on traditional birth attendants.