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UNFPA lauds Mrs Saraki’s commitment to mothers, children’s health in Nigeria

L-R: Dr. Keita, Mrs Saraki, Kori Habib and Dr Rabiatu Sagir of UNFPA
ABUJA – The United Nations Population, UNFPA, has commended the  Wife of Nigeria’s Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, for supporting women and children in the country with various health interventions through her foundation, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa.
Country Representative of UNFPA, Dr Diene Keita, gave the commendation during her visit to Mrs Saraki at her Abuja residence on Friday.
Mrs Saraki, a lawyer, has since 2003 brought hope and joy to many homes in the country through many health care initiatives providing care for mostly less-privileged families in rural communities.
In a remark, Dr Keita said apart from providing women and girls with health care they need, Mrs Saraki championed advocacies for equipping nurses and midwives with the skills they need, which she said are the core mandates of UNFPA.
She said Mrs Saraki had consistently followed all programmes aimed at boosting nursing and midwifery professions by personally attending such fora locally and internationally.
“You do it with such powerful messages, such kindness and emotion that as a Country Representative, I cannot do anything else but try to be wherever you are; because you are doing my job better than I will be able to do it,” she said.
She went on: “I will like to thank you for attending the London Family Planning Summit. I thank you for accepting being a Champion. My late Executive Director, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin loved you. I was still in DRC when he talked about you. He talked about how much he respected you and how much he was proud of you. My late Executive Director was just proud of you. To work with Wellbeing Foundation for me is a must…
“I want to work with you and Wellbeing Foundation on how to get the private sector into maternal health.”
During the visit, the two organizations formally  partnered to continue to work towards improved health for women and children, and promote good working environment and enhanced skills for nurses and midwives in the country. 
Diene also congratulated Mrs Saraki on her recent daughter’s wedding.
Responding, Mrs Saraki said when she decided to formally begin to advocate for the wellbeing of women and children in the country in 2013, she didn’t have any role model to look at what they had done, or to follow.
“I was relying on google. Each time I rely on google in those days, I came across a Saudi Arabian lady who I did not know then. But, I began to look at what she was saying and solutions she was proffering. Even though I didn’t know her, I found out she was a solution to a good work in Nigeria.
“At that time, Professor Thoraya Obaid was the Executive Director of UNFPA. We became very good friends, family friend since then and she continued to inspire me. So, I was very happy when my late brother, who I still miss very much, Prof. Osotimehin became the Executive Director of UNFPA. I felt that for the first time, we would have African solutions, Nigerian innovations to the world problems; and we did,” she explained.
She said Osotimehin’s contribution helped improve the conditions of women and children and provided them with platforms to have a world where every child is wanted, every delivery is equipped and people have a choice to become health-seeking, wellbeing-seeking, and economic empowerment seeking.
“That is what has always brought me back, time and time again to the UNFPA, because like other international organizations, you are not focusing on only one thing. You are actually looking at the wellbeing. It is a total picture of the wellbeing, and it is why, even though it is now that we are formalizing our partnership and collaboration, I think that UNFPA has been my partner from the start.
“…I will like you to consider Wellbeing Foundation not just as a partner or as a collaborator, but as a sister organization. I really look forward to formalizing our working relationship on many accounts.
“Look at it, as the Global Goodwill Ambassador of the International Confederation of Midwives, midwives to me are the army, the trusted friendly army that will actually get the message to the grassroots, to the frontline and will actually help us to drive beyond maternal and child health to what I call family health and what I call community health.
“As a Nigerian woman, I can tell all of you very honestly we women tend to only seek formal care when we are pregnant and when we have emergency.  And, that leaves out all the other lifestyle conditions that actually reduce our health. We have an old saying in Nigeria that ‘prevention is better than cure,” she added.
She however revealed that one of the setbacks faced by foundation was the death of its Director of Midwifery Services, Mrs Felicity Ukoko Aliana, whom she said died of undiagnosed heart disease. “We miss her immensely because she was the engine room that gave me the courage to start an antenatal programme independently, working with government and private facilities to actually bring education about their own bodies to them,” she said.


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