Nigeria Launches the National Self-Care Guideline

Banner Photo Description: L to R, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Minister for Health, Resident Representative UNFPA Nigeria, Commissioner for Health Cross Rivers State along with representive of partner organizations. Photo Credit: White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria. 

By Christiana Asala, White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria

Since the development of the National Self-Care guidelines for Sexual Reproductive and Maternal Health in Nigeria (adapted from the WHO Consolidated Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for Health: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.[1]) and official approval by the Minister of Health, the most common question we get is how do we make this guideline practical in communities and how do we build awareness on self-care as an approach to maintain health and manage illnesses? While the gap is huge, we have remained optimistic by taking baby steps.

On 9th March 2022, another baby step was made in disseminating the National Self-Care Guideline with its official launch by the Honorable Minister for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, along with other national policy documents. The leading and exemplary role of the Federal Ministry of Health in institutionalizing self-care in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized as it shows the commitment of the government in ensuring Universal Health Coverage is achieved in Nigeria.

The guideline was developed in Nigeria in 2020 through a highly consultative process led by The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). Through a newly formed technical working group called the Nigeria Self-Care Network—the local affiliate of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group (SCTG)—the FMOH actively engaged private sector, professional associations, regulatory bodies, policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and advocacy groups to provide input on the guideline. The FMOH approved the final National Self-Care Guideline for Sexual, Reproductive, and Maternal Health in May 2021. While approval of the guideline is a tremendous accomplishment, it is only a first step in creating widespread access to self-care.

Members of the Nigerian Self-Care Network who were actively involved in developing the guideline, include White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria, John Snow, Inc./Access Collaborative for DMPA-SC, Society for Family Health and Pathfinder Nigeria sprang into action to ensure a coordinated, subnational advocacy initiative through advocacy activities to state stakeholders and training of healthcare workers on self-care across 12 States in Nigeria. Thanks to the SCTG, who have continued to support advocacy efforts geared towards creating an enabling environment for access to self-care in Nigeria, and have amplified Nigeria self-care activities, stirring interest of other stakeholders that have joined the self-care network.

The various commitments made by state policy makers during the launch creates the next pathway for state-level implementation of self-care and a heightened step in building community awareness on self-care, as an innovative approach to achieving Universal Health Coverage.

[1] The WHO guideline was updated in 2021 and renamed World Health Organization (WHO) Guideline on Self-Care Interventions for Health and Well-Being.