Adepeju Jaiyeoba is the founder and CEO of Mother’s Delivery Kit (MDK), a Lagos-based social enterprise established to promote and enhance safe births, instigate behavioural change and economically empower women in Nigeria. Her enterprise supplies birthing kits to health centres, hospitals, traditional birth attendants as well as maternal and child health organisations across the country.
Prior to the establishment of MDK, the death of a friend from birthing complications in 2011, inspired Jaiyeoba to set up a non-governmental, non-profit organisation called the Brown Button Foundation. “Her death put a face on every maternal and child death statistic I had heard,” Jaiyeoba said on the loss of her friend. “She was educated and brilliant, and she sought out health care services during her pregnancy. Yet she became one of the 13 women who die daily during childbirth in Nigeria. The health care system had failed her and her unborn baby.”
Maternal and child mortality has always been an issue in developing countries around the world. Many pregnant women are exposed to several risks and complications because they lack easy access to healthcare facilities, skilled doctors, or even an ambulance or vehicle to transport them when in labour. This is why each year, reducing infant and maternal mortality is a major part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many countries.
I’ve witnessed what happens when women don’t have access to sterile supplies at childbirth. I’ve seen umbilical cords severed with rusty blades, increasing the chances of neonatal tetanus. I’ve seen mothers giving birth on bare floors, risking deadly sepsis infections. And I’ve seen how the odds are transformed when women have access to the right health tools and technologies.
One of Nigeria’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for last year, was to ensure that the country’s under-five mortality rate reduces to 70 deaths per 1,000 live births and that the rate of mothers dying while giving birth decreases to 250 per every 100,000 live births. However, statistics from the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), show that maternal mortality in Nigeria is at 128 deaths per 1,000 live births for under-five mortality and 576 deaths per 100,000 live births for maternal mortality, indicating that the country was unable to achieve its goal.
The Brown Button Foundation mainly trains and builds the capacity of birth attendants in remote communities in Nigeria where births are often carried out by unprofessional, and traditional birth attendants resulting in both infant and maternal death. Although skilled care during delivery did help to alleviate birthing complications in rural communities, Jaiyeoba soon realised that the “challenges of preventing maternal and child deaths is multifaceted and also demands the right medicines, tools and supplies at the right time to prevent deaths.”
With hospitals or health centres far away and the common practice of delivering babies at home, these supplies are hard to come by in rural communities. Hence, Jaiyeoba thought of a way to provide women in rural communities with low cost essential supplies for child delivery. With support from the government of the United States, Jaiyeoba received critical business education and global health experience to grow her business through the US Young African Leaders Initiative’s Mandela Washington Fellowship exchange program.
She also received a $25,000 grant from the US African Development Foundation to set up storage facilities and strengthen supply chain lines for delivery, so more kits can get into the hands of more moms faster. Today, her innovative kits containing affordable, sterile supplies are in 30 out of 36 states in Nigeria and has reached more than 50,000 women and babies.