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Abortion: Seeking exceptions to the Global Gag Rule

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Nana, 14, wakes up petrified. It is 5:30 a.m. She was supposed to be up by 4:00 a.m., but was deep asleep and did not hear her angry aunt howling for hot water to bath with.

Though scared, she slowly and quietly walks into the kitchen, greeted her aunt, but the response was discomforting.

“Are you just waking up?’’ Mrs. Alfred growled. “I am sorry,’’ Nana muttered, shaking.

The angry woman rains slaps on poor Nana, sending her to the ground. Not done, she made to give more slaps but suddenly stopped on realising that Nana appeared to have fainted.

Unsure whether the girl had indeed fainted or was just pretending, she took a more critical look at the almost naked teenager and the woman in her told her that something was wrong somewhere. Her little breasts appeared firmer and her complexion lighter.

Further checks confirmed Mrs Alfred’s fears. The poor girl was pregnant! That was not even the most devastating news for the woman. Little Nana’s father was responsible for the 14-week-old pregnancy.

Nana was just seven when she started living with her aunt following the death of her mother. An only child, the responsibility became huge for the father, Mr Dimas, a trader, who had always been heavily dependent on his wife.

Though his daughter often visits on holidays, Dimas is yet to get over his loss and always wished Nana, who is a complete replica of her mother, and reminded him so much of her, could live with him permanently.

Nana had returned from one of such holidays just two months ago.

Since this reality dawned on Mrs Alfred, she has been pondering over what step to take to help her late sister’s daughter. She had considered terminating the pregnancy and ran to an NGO for counseling but was turned back by the outfit over fears of running foul of the Global Gag Rule. according to nannews.ng

U. S. President Ronald Reagan enacted the GGR, which prohibits foreign NGOs, who receive U.S. global health assistance, from providing legal abortion services or referrals, while also barring advocacy for abortion law reforms, even if it is done with the NGO’s personal, non-U.S. funds.

The policy allows access to abortion only in very rare cases.

Reagan first enacted the GGR, also known as the Mexico City Policy, in 1984. Every administration after Reagan, always took fresh decisions on the policy, making NGO funding vulnerable to political changes happening in the U.S.

The rule forces organisations to choose whether to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and education without U.S. funding, or comply with the policy in order to continue accepting U.S. funds.

In 2017, President Donald Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy expanded the global gag rule, applying it to recipients of any U.S. global health funding, totaling an unprecedented 8.8 billion dollars. This means that everything, from HIV and AIDS programming and health systems strengthening to programmes that support water, sanitation, and hygiene, are negatively impacted.

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In 2019, the Trump administration announced a further expansion of the implementation of the global gag rule, restricting “gagged organisations from funding groups that provide abortion services and information, even though those organisations do not get any U.S. aid. This means that organisations, donor governments and funders will be bound by a U.S. government policy, even if they do not accept any U.S. government funding.

Nigeria, with so many challenges, has recently become a breeding ground for monsters that have continued to prey upon innocent women and girls. Rape and sexual assault has continued to rise unabated with many of such cases leading to deaths of little girls, young women and even infants. Most of the offenders, unfortunately, are usually relations or supposed loved ones.

Unarguably, cases of rape, child abuse, trafficking in persons and other sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) have increased in recent times in Nigeria, as the scary statistics of women and girls being raped and abused on daily basis from different parts of the country keep rising, sparking wild and wide reactions.

Figures released by the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, showed that the Police received 717 cases of rape between January and May.

Adamu said that 799 suspects were arrested over alleged rape offences, 631 of the cases successfully investigated, 57 persons prosecuted and convicted, while 52 cases are still under prosecution.

What can the populous African nation do to mitigate the impact of such a dangerous trend that threatens to tear the fabric of its existence, seeing that it certainly cannot be able to tame all these monsters that are on the prowl?

What other means can Nigeria employ to create an exception to the GGR without risking effective operations of donor agencies such as Ipas, which is in the frontline of this battle?

It is not a secret that nearly 50 per cent of global HIV and AIDS funding comes from the U.S. government; and unfortunately, under Trump’s expanded global gag rule, the quality and availability of HIV services, including treatment, testing, and prevention, are being threatened.

With the GGR effectively in place, if a foreign NGO on reproductive health refuses to sign up to uphold the policy, it will lose all U.S funding and technical expertise provided by its agencies such as the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID).

This means that under the expanded GGR, non-U.S. NGOs will not be able to receive any of the country’s funds if they provided safe abortion services, counseling, referrals or advocacy work, even if they used personal funds.

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With this, NGOs, who are already suffering from significant funding shortages due to their decision to continue to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, will have to struggle to help those in need.

Important coalitions, networks and movements that advocate for human rights, such as abortion reforms and sex workers’ rights, will lose momentum due to the chilling effect the global gag rule has on advocacy and collaboration between groups that are gagged and those that are not.

At a recent three-day “Media Training for Journalists on Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights/Global Gag Rule’’, in Keffi, Nasarawa State, organised by Ipas, stakeholders had made attempts to study and understand the GGR, and its implications and consequences on the health of the Nigerian woman.

The stakeholders expressed worry that the lives of millions of Nigerian women, who would want to avoid pregnancy, but lacked access to modern contraception, were at risk.

The Country Director of Ipas (Nigeria), Mr Lucky Palmer, in a presentation, noted that every eight minutes, a woman in a developing country dies of complications from unsafe abortion.

“In addition, an estimated 285,000 women, within the same period, have complications from unsafe abortion serious enough to require treatment in health facilities, but will not obtain the care they need,’’ Palmer said.

He said that the figures suggest that unsafe abortion has become a major contributor to the country’s high levels of maternal death, ill health and disability.

According to the Ipas representative, of the 85 million women who get pregnant annually, 40 million of them usually end up having abortions, with developing countries accounting for 98 per cent of the unsafe abortions.

Ipas also said that Africa and Latin America accounted for the highest number of unsafe abortions globally.

The organisation expressed sadness that Nigeria was yet to reform restrictive domestic laws and policies that placed women and girls’ health and lives at risk.

It also said that Nigeria was preventing women from exercising rights that the government had committed to, under the international law.

Ipas noted further: “In 2012 alone, 1.25 million Nigerian women had an abortion, doubling the number estimated in 1996, and with the GGR, the numbers will increase and the situation can only get worse.’’

Ipas emphasised that deliberate urgent steps must be taken by all stakeholders to make exceptions to the rule or find ways of mitigating its impact on the future of women because only 16 per cent of all women of reproductive age were using contraceptive, and just 11 per cent are using the modern methods.

“That results in almost 10 million unintended pregnancies out of which more than half end in an induced abortion,’’ Palmer noted.

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The country director also blamed the worrying global health challenge on the Global Gag rule, noting that the training of journalists to help with awareness and advocacy was one of the ways the organisation was exploring to tackle the issue.

According to him, a big burden is on the media to work closely with relevant organisations in advocating for the enforcement of laws and domestication of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, to promote women’s sexual rights and health, create awareness, and educate the public on consequences of unsafe abortions.

Delivering a paper on GGR and its impact on women’s sexual health, Dr Abiola Afolabi of the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), said the rule was limiting women from legally accessing abortion and further taking away their right to make informed choices about their future.

Afolabi suggested that exceptions could be made to the GGR by opposing the policy, pressing government to increase the country’s health budget, and making available information on the implication of failure to address the issue.

She consequently called for the de-criminalisation of abortion by those saddled with the mandate of making responsible and responsive policies that were in the overall interest of citizens and the world at large.

Also in a presentation, Mr Emma Ugoji, a journalist and a facilitator at the workshop, highlighted the role of the media in achieving the set goals.

Ugoji stressed that without the media, there would continue to be misconceptions about Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (WSRHR), which is currently being threatened by the GGR.

He said that women, girls and children, especially the vulnerable and poor, were suffering, adding that pregnant women also keep suffering from disruptions in reproductive health services.

According to him, the policy causes more unintended pregnancies, higher rates of maternal mortality, and an increase in unsafe abortions.

The veteran journalist noted that the global gag rule had not decreased rates of abortions.

“It has, instead, increased the number of unsafe abortions,’’ he said, urging stakeholders to speak out on the need for safe abortions since U.S. funded NGOs had been gagged and could not drive home any campaign.

Ugoji urged the media to be the instrument through which campaigns for exceptions to the GGR would be made and the goal achieved.

Analysts agree with Ugoji and have pointed out that it is only through such exceptions that little Nana will be saved the trauma of giving birth to a son or daughter that will be both her child and brother or sister, in addition to the even more severe consequences of a bleak, blank and black future. (NANFeatures)

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Health

Doctors Without Borders Spends N17.7b On Vulnerable Nigerians -Official

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DOCTORS

The Head of Mission, Doctors without Boarder, Mr Syed Tirima has said that the not-for-profit organisation has expended N17.7billion on humanitarian services to vulnerable Nigerians.

 

 

Speaking during a visit to the Minister of Police Affairs,Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, Tirima revealed that the group has been around since 1996, rendering medical support to all the geopolitical zones of the country.

 

 

According to a statement on Friday by the ministry spokesman, Bolaji Kazeem, titled, ‘Dingyadi canvasses medical support for police,’ Tirima enumerated some of the group’s activities to include free medical services to pediatrics, maternity interventions, primary health care for displaced persons, medical care for lassa fever patients, provision of clinical equipment to some hospitals, and food/nutritional support as well as support to the ministry of health through the provision of response services, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

 

 

In his response, the Minister of Police Affairs, Dingyadi sought medical support for police officers and their children from the Doctors without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres to enable them to discharge their duty efficiently.

 

 

The minister stated that the police are vulnerable people who had lost many officers in the course of protecting the citizens and needed the support of everybody, including Doctors without Borders.

 

 

 

“I believe that you are aware that the police are one of the most vulnerable security services in the country. We have lost so many and many officers had been affected with injury. As partners in progress, we do hope you can extend some of the services to police hospitals in the country,” the minister reportedly stated.

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He recalled the activities of the group while he was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health in Sokoto state years back, and thanked the organization for promoting local content through the employment of over 90 per cent of Nigerians as staff of the organisation.

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Striking Resident Doctors Reject FG’s New MoU

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doctor

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has rejected the new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the Federal Government presented to the union.

 

 

NARD National President Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa said this while addressing reporters at the end of a closed-door meeting with the Federal Government and other relevant stakeholders yesterday in Abuja.

 

 

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) led the striking doctors to a meeting summoned at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the current strike by doctors across the country.

 

 

NAN recalls that the resident doctors embarked on an indefinite strike on August 1 to press home the issues of agitation amongst their members.

 

 

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Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige had, on August 13, handed over the trade dispute between the government and NARD to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria for adjudication.

 

 

 

Uyilawa said NARD refused to sign the MoU that was brokered by its parent body, the NMA, and the Federal Government due to an undisclosed clause.

 

 

 

“We rejected the MoU. We didn’t sign it because we feel we are being punished for the failures of those in government,” he said.

 

 

 

The NARD president said the nationwide strike would continue and that the union members would proceed with the court case.

 

 

 

He added that NARD leadership has to present the new MoU to its members before he could sign the document.

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Ngige said all other unions in the negotiation, including the NMA and the Medical and Dental Consultants of Nigeria (MDCN), have signed the new agreement.

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Health

MALARIA: Makinde Flags-Off Distribution Of 5m Insecticide-Treated Nets Across 33 LGs

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Makinde

…. says govt ‘ll continue to deliver affordable, qualitative healthcare for residents
… ‘We’ll restore Oyo as Mecca of Health care services’

 

Oyo State Governor ‘Seyi Makinde, on Monday, kick-started the distribution of five Million insecticide-treated nets to people across the 33 local governments of the state.

 

 

He also explained that his administration will continue to deliver accessible, affordable, and qualitative healthcare for all indigines and residents of the state, adding that his administration is committed to improving access to health care delivery by providing functional primary health care centre in each of the 351 electoral wards of the state.

 

 

Makinde, who was represented at the eve.t by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Hon. Abdul-mojeed Mogbonjubola, said that the distribution process of the nets will increase awareness of communities on the appropriate knowledge, attitude and skills in preventing malaria caused by mosquito bites.

 

 

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the  governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as declaring at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, venue of the event  that the state will equally improve the health of mothers and children by reducing morbidity and mortality across communities.

 

He said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I stand here today to flag off the distribution of five million insecticide-treated nets that will be distributed across all the 33 Local Government Areas of the State. My presence at this occasion underscores the importance this administration has for the health and well-being of the people of the state.

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“Malaria is still a public health challenge in Nigeria and Oyo State. It seriously challenges the health care needs of women and children in our communities, especially at the grassroots. This net distribution process is expected to increase awareness of communities on the appropriate knowledge, attitude and skills in preventing malaria caused by mosquito bites. This will further improve the health of mothers and children by reducing morbidity and mortality across communities.”

 

 

He assured that his administration will continue to provide accessible, affordable and qualitative healthcare for all, especially children and women, saying that “we cannot fold our arms and bury our heads in the sand without acknowledging the sheer magnitude of weak health systems has thrust on the public.

 

 

“It is for this reason that the state deemed it necessary to put in place different health intervention which is free and assessable to the grassroots. Such intervention includes improving access to health care delivery by providing one primary health care centre per ward, improving human resources for health and providing community health insurance services Also, free education is provided by our College of Nursing and Midwifery,” he added.

 

 

The governor emphasized that his administration, in a bid to ensure that health services in the state are evidence-based, community data capturing is now electronic to ensure all grassroots households are captured and have access to health care services.

 

 

While explaining that distribution of the nets will prevent malaria, reduce the burden of malaria on the economy of the state and health care systems, he reassured that the state will intensify efforts in improving the healthcare-seeking behavior of the populace and give the right message and information needed on the use of insecticide-treated nets.

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He added:
“The focus of the state government in health care service delivery is in partnership for sustainability. It is in this wise, that this administration will continue to reach out to development partners, well-meaning organizations and notable individuals within and outside the country for partnership and collaboration to implement programmes and projects that will improve the health status of the people.

 

 

“In attaining this goal, I am pleased to state here that the Oyo State Ministry of Health, Health Insurance Agency and the State Primary Health Care Board, in collaboration with our colleges are working to ensure universal health coverage at a cost-effective and sustainable way.”

 

 

He thanked the institutions that partnered with the state including USAID, PMI, GHSC-PSM, & Break Through Action-Nigeria,  for collaborating and supporting malaria activities in Oyo State hence making the net distribution possible.

 

 

“This partnership has bought us together today to flag off this round of free net distribution that is conducted every four years, the last round was in 2016. The USAID partners (PMI, GHSC-PSM, & Break Through Action-Nigeria) supporting malaria activities in Oyo State have collaborated with the state to make this net distribution possible.

 

 

“This support is appreciated as it actually goes beyond net distribution to diagnoses and treatment of malaria.”

 

 

“Let me make it clear that it is the goal of this administration to leave a befitting legacy in the area of health care. I recall the days when Ibadan and indeed Oyo State was a Mecca of sorts for health care services. Esteemed guest pacesetters we intend to bring those days back.”

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Speaking earlier, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health, Dr. Funmi Salami, said that the government embarked on an advocacy drive in the media through the airing of jingles for the populace to be aware of distribution periods and benefits of making use of insecticide treated  mosquito nets in their households.

 

 

She added that field workers were also engaged for the house-to-house campaign for the distribution of letters to residents, which, according to her, would enable identified people to benefit from the laudable project.

 

 

In her goodwill message, Ag Resident Adviser, USAID, Celeste Carr, admonished health workers in the state to educate pregnant women continually on the benefits they stand to derive in making use of insecticide mosquito nets at all times.

 

 

She noted that her organization pays special attention to the health status of pregnant women and children under the age of five, hence, the need for every household to key into activities that would promote healthy living in the community.

 

 

Carr, thereafter, commended the Oyo State Government for various health initiatives and its dedication to the launch of state-wide distribution of 5million insecticide mosquito nets across the state.

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