The Government of Nigeria has made significant commitments in recent years toward improving access to quality reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health, plus nutrition (RMNCAH+N) across the country. The Department of Family Health, within the Federal Ministry of Health, is the lead agency responsible for meeting these commitments. However, despite the Department’s best efforts, the quality of RMNCAH+N services across the country has only minimally improved. A key part of the problem is the Department’s limited capacity to coordinate effectively across a complex range of health stakeholders, including national and state primary health care development agencies and ministries of health. As a result, it has struggled to translate a growing slate of new policies and regulations into meaningful implementation across the country’s 36 states, which is necessary to improve the quality of RMNCAH+N services, particularly at the level of primary health care (PHC). The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges and threatened the continuity of RMNCAH+N services for the most vulnerable during the crisis.
In early 2021, the Director of the Department of Family Health, Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, expressed a clear need for technical assistance from Canada to help address this problem, building on Canada’s long-standing engagement in the health sector in Nigeria and recognized expertise on RMNCAH+N. The need to focus on RMNCAH+N was also relayed to Canada by the Minister of Health during a bilateral meeting in January. Discussions with the Department of Family Health began informally and were followed by a written request for assistance.
The proposed initiative would deploy a Canadian public health expert to the Department of Family Health for a period of eight months. The objective of the deployment would be to help strengthen the Department’s capacity to coordinate the dissemination, adoption and implementation of RMNCAH+N policy and guidance at national and sub-national levels in order to improve the quality of RMNCAH+N services, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic