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IHVN Joins Multi-Country Research Project to Improve Maternal and Newborn Health

IHVN Senior Technical Advisor, Dr Emilia Iwu (second left) meets with the Ensuring Quality Access and Learning for Mothers and Newborns in Conflict-Affected Contexts (EQUAL) team at the IHVN Campus in Abuja.

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has announced a new partnership that aims to improve maternal and newborn health in conflict-affected countries through the creation of a multi-country research consortium.  With funding provided by UK Aid from the UK government, the $11.3 million contract will be led by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) alongside IHVN, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and its university-wide Center for Humanitarian Health, the Somali Research and Development Institute, and Université Catholique de Bukavu (Democratic Republic of Congo).

The partnership called Ensuring Quality Access and Learning for Mothers and Newborns in Conflict-Affected Contexts (EQUAL), will work to identify and fill evidence gaps that could ultimately improve policies, programming, and outcomes for mothers and newborns. The five-year project will focus its research around the day of birth and the first week of life — the timeframe with the highest number of newborn deaths globally.  In 2019 alone, 2.4 million babies died in the first month of life, 75% of which occurred in the first week.

The consortium will conduct research in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan — countries and regions where maternal and newborn mortality rates rank among the highest globally. In Nigeria, for example, 35 newborn babies die for every 1,000 live births — a devastating statistic that is nearly ten times higher than the risk faced by newborns in high-income countries.

In addition to delivering cutting-edge research, EQUAL will invest in opportunities for partners and key stakeholders to share expertise and strengthen technical, research, and operational capacities. This includes dedicated training and mentorship for female researchers as well as using the research findings to help inform national health policies and guidelines.

“In Nigeria, IHVN will collaborate with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, the Government of Yobe State and Faculty of Shehu Sule College of Nursing and Midwifery to conduct operations research on the quality of midwifery education and practice,” said Dr. Emilia Iwu, Senior Technical Advisor at IHVN.

“Specifically, we will conduct a 5-year assessment of the recently implemented Community Midwifery program to examine the effectiveness these midwives have in addressing gaps in maternal and neonatal health within rural communities of Yobe State. Of particular interest are factors affecting midwifery workforce, participation, retention, performance, and personal resilience during periods of increased insecurity,” Dr. Iwu continued.

Dr. Emilia Iwu will represent IHVN in the consortium in collaboration with Nursing and Midwifery stakeholders and the Government of Nigeria.