Islamic Opinion Leaders: Building capacity for maternal, neonatal and child health in Northern Nigeria

Organization: 
development Research and Projects Centre
Organization Location: 
Kano City, Kano, Nigeria

The problem identified is the low uptake of MNCH services in Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria (NDHS 2008 and 2013). Misinformation and mis-perceptions preached by Islamic scholars on Islamic precepts on family planning, child-spacing, breastfeeding, immunization and child rearing practices contribute to this situation. In our previous SLaB project the dRPC identified 14 Islamic scholars and 28 apprentices who preached against MNCH interventions and transformed them into champions for correct messages and practices. We now propose to further empower these Islamic scholars to enlighten health providers at service delivery points in 5 resistant communities with low uptake as identified in the 2013 DHS on the correct Islamic precepts on MNCH. This project will contribute to improved health seeking behaviors of men and women of reproductive age; increased uptake of services in primary health facilities; improved capacity of health providers to counter negative perceptions of modern MNCH services; improved immunization coverage; improved uptake of modern family planning methods of the 5 communities. The standard practice amongst development partners in Nigeria is that Islamic Opinion Leaders are engaged in MNCH projects in demand creation role narrowly restricted to changing the opinion, behavior and practices of community members in the Ummah. This approach fails to recognize the conservative role of Muslim health providers at service delivery points who do not believe in MNCH health protocols and reinforce negative practices in the community. This group must be targeted and transformed ISOLs are best able to confront and correct wrong perceptions and mis-perceptions.

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