By Ashley Okwuosa & Chuma Asuzu

Maternal Figures is a research organisation that tracks maternal health interventions in Nigeria, producing a comprehensive database that’s used in newsrooms across the country. 

Our journey started with the question of accountability. As journalists and researchers, we were interested in looking beyond news stories about Nigeria’s high rate of maternal deaths and looking at what solutions were out there and whether or not they were working. With the 2030 sustainable development goals looming, we saw that Nigeria had less than ten years to reduce its maternal mortality ratio by more than 70%. So, with that in mind, we decided to build a database of maternal health interventions implemented in Nigeria over the last 30 years. 

With the support of partners like the Brown Institute for Media Studies and Code for Africa, we have created a searchable tool that journalists can use while reporting on existing attempts by the government, NGOs and other stakeholders to reduce Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate. Since the database went live in October 2020, Maternal Figures has been visited by more than 3,800 journalists and researchers and has been referenced over 250 times.

We also know that lack of accurate data surrounding maternal health in Nigeria is a grave issue. International agencies have given varying accounts about where Nigeria stands. WHO has published three different estimates for the country’s maternal mortality ratio over the last five years, all of which give different figures for the same time frame. Political leaders have openly questioned these numbers and others developed by international bodies call them “wild estimates”. But the country’s National Demographic Health Survey doesn’t offer any more clarity. Published every five years, the survey reports have only released maternal mortality ratios in three editions. If we look closely at the data from these surveys, it will show that the reduction in Nigeria’s maternal mortality ratio has not met the country’s own expectations.

Our hope is that by crowdsourcing information by interviewing policymakers, health professionals, government officials and others, we will continue to create an opportunity for more accurate data about maternal health in Nigeria and the efficacy of proposed interventions. So far, we have collected close to 500 source documents: reports, evaluations, research, and interviews relating to these interventions. 

We hope that our time as part of the JamLab Accelerator Programme will help us learn how to make Maternal Figures a sustainable business for the long term.

We’re currently exploring possible membership models and are broadening the idea of what success looks like for a platform like Maternal Figures. Ultimately, it is important for us to continue doing the research Maternal Figures was founded on and by making sure the tool is being used by journalists and newsrooms across Nigeria. 

The JamLab Accelerator is a six-month hothouse programme for journalism and media innovators. It is based at Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in the heart of Johannesburg.

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