Maternal and adolescent health in West Africa: Toward low-cost reforms grounded in reality
High numbers of women and adolescent girls continue to die in Niger and Benin while giving birth. The challenge is how to address the problem. This project aims to improve the poor quality of maternal and adolescent health care services to find a lasting solution to the unnecessary deaths. Maternal and adolescent health According to the latest World Health Organization and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports, both countries have made insufficient progress toward meeting maternal mortality reduction targets. In Niger, 553 women die for every 100,000 live births, while the figure in Benin is 405. Niger also has the world's highest rate of adolescent pregnancy with 51% of women aged 20 to 24 giving birth before age 18. Low-cost reforms for improved results Laboratoire d'e¿tudes et de recherche sur les dynamiques sociales et le de¿veloppement local (LASDEL), an experienced research organization based in both countries, will lead the project. Researchers will draw lessons from 20 years of reform efforts and from users' and health workers' experiences at the local level. LASDEL will also identify health system innovators to implement and test low-cost and locally developed reforms, with the goal of improving the quality of maternal and adolescent health services. Evidence shows, for example, how heads of local facilities have influenced their colleagues' positive behaviour changes without waiting for internationally driven performance management incentives. Local leaders and innovators The project will strengthen capacity and leadership among innovators and young researchers to continue to advocate for reforms and implement them. LASDEL will build on its years of experience in research and policy engagement to strengthen its own institutional capacity. It aims to become a centre of research excellence to improve public services in Niger, Benin, and across the sub-region. The timing for this research is right, given the opportunity to work with the Niger and Benin governments as they plan to address the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, the Government of Niger is keen to support this initiative. It has launched a program to address bottlenecks and transform dysfunctional systems to improve service delivery. It will work closely with LASDEL during implementation.