Achieving accountability in the health sector requires a multi-dimensional approach. Government officials, community stakeholders, media, civil society groups, advocates and healthcare professionals need to constantly work together to identify, monitor, review and make decisions that promote transparency in the delivery of services to achieve a healthcare system that works for all. Citizens also should be willing to ask salient questions on how funds allocated for service delivery are being used and if the intended beneficiaries are getting the services they need (e.g. functional health facilities for antenatal care visits and delivery, adequate stocks of essential lifesaving equipment and consumables).
Elizabeth Kah is an investigative journalist who is passionate about bringing accountability and transparency to the health system. She plays a crucial role as a watchdog for the people, focusing on maternal and newborn healthcare issues in Bauchi state. MamaYe-Evidence for Action met with her to hear what she had to say about her inspiring work.
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Elizabeth Kah, and I am an investigative journalist. I work for Bauchi State television primarily on a programme called ‘The Health Beat,’ which has given me the opportunity to report on issues that affect women from pregnancy to labor, childbirth as well as immunizations. I’m part of the Bauchi State Accountability Mechanism for MNCH (BASAM), and Bauchi State Child Spacing Advocacy working group, and I have worked with many development partners on MNCH.
Tell us how you use your expertise to champion accountability around RMNCH:
As a BASAM member, I have been trained on how to hold government accountable on MNCH issues. I move a notch further and engage in investigations on drug availability in health clinics - drugs for immunization, antenatal essential drugs and drugs for newborn children. Most of the time government's flagship programmes such as free medical care programmes do not get to the primary beneficiaries.
I go to health facilities to monitor and ensure that drugs and essential life-saving commodities promised by government are supplied. I also go to communities and carry out assessments to ensure that women and children are accessing those free medical programmes. I believe that it is through these assessments that government can evaluate the reach and impact of their interventions and citizens can become more aware of whether intended communities are benefiting from such programmes or not.
Why is this important to you?
This work is important to me because I believe no woman is supposed to die while trying to give life and no child should die at childbirth. I want to see women delivering happily and going back home with their babies alive. In 2004, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after my recovery and experience I became passionate about issues relating to women's health. What better way to bring about accountability on these issues than with the power of my pen?
What is your personal message for your fellow women?
Women should advocate on behalf of all the women.
They should help each other - especially at the community level to seek healthcare services during pregnancy and childbirth and encourage each other to attend antenatal care clinics and immunize their children.
As a Champion for MNCH accountability, what is your pledge?
I will continue to investigate issues around the health sector. I will report exactly what I see with no cover ups, so that government see the true picture of what happens in the communities regarding healthcare services that pregnant women and children receive.