Virgin olive oil is among the items in a sterile mother’s delivery kit being sold in Nigeria to help save the lives of women and their babies.
The affordable kits are aimed at reducing infection, a leading cause of death among mothers and infants in a country with an infant mortality rate of nearly 8 percent.
Instead of using nylon bags as gloves, toothpaste as disinfectant, or rusty blades and even glass to cut the umbilical cord — practices still seen in some areas — the disposable kits provide the basics for a clean delivery. Sterile gloves, cord clamps, a scalpel blade, antiseptic and gauze are among the 15 items in the kit. Also included are immunization and antenatal follow-up forms to foster a wider cycle of health and well-being.
The kits are from Mother’s Delivery Kit Ventures, a social enterprise based in Lagos and founded by lawyer and community development advocate Adepeju Mabadeje Jaiyeoba who says,“ensuring the right instruments are available and accessible at childbirth is key to saving lives.”
Jaiyeoba told Olive Oil Times the kits were designed by a medical team to suit cultural birth practices and the fact traditional birth attendants (TBAs), not doctors, handle more than 70 percent of child deliveries in Nigeria. The basic kit sells for $5 and the version including a 100ml bottle of virgin olive oil for $6.
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Why olive oil?
Jaiyeoba said the olive oil is used to clean the babies immediately after birth. “There is a layer on the newborn called vernix caseosa and it’s lipophilic, meaning it dissolves in oil. Soaps aren’t used initially because of their harshness to the newborn skin. Basically a birth attendant pours the olive oil on the maternity pad included and cleans the baby with it,” she said.
As for why olive oil was chosen and not another oil, Jaiyeoba said this was because many TBAs strongly believe that, apart from its health benefits, “olive oil helps offer early spiritual protection for the baby.”
“Many mothers also believe that olive oil is a product that can be prayed upon by a spiritual leader and used to anoint the baby. So we work within this framework because scientifically olive oil has been shown to have a better penetrating effect to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores.”
She said other reasons include olive oil’s high level of antioxidants and its protective factors against damage from UV rays. “The baby’s melanocytes responsible for skin pigmentation are not fully functional at birth. The baby’s skin is delicate and prone to ultraviolet light and olive oil offers additional protection for the skin in this regard.”
Goal: grow sales to a million this year
“Our work has involved travelling to some of the areas of Nigeria where the Boko Haram insurgency has been at its most intense. We are constantly surprised that out of the whole of Nigeria we receive more orders from these areas for our delivery kits than anywhere else,” Jaiyeoba said.
Thanks to its partnership with manufacturers, the organization is able to make a profit on the kits which goes to further its social objectives and promote the health of mothers and babies. It has already sold more than 6,000 kits since it was set up last August and aims to serve a million women in 2014, a goal requiring the purchase of bigger production machines and enough capital to buy raw materials in bulk.
Meetings with business angels in Boulder
Out of 240 applicants from 60 countries, it has been chosen by the Colorado-based Unreasonable Institute as one of 14 ventures for its 2014 fellowship program, which starts with a 5‑week “bootcamp” in Boulder at which they are matched up with experienced social entrepreneurs and potential investors in a bid to help them scale up enough to impact the lives of over a million people.
Jaiyeoba said social investors are “few and far between” in Nigeria so the program would be an investment “which will pay off in terms of scaling up our venture and therefore multiplying the number of lives we can save.”
Mother’s Delivery Kit needs sponsors to fund the $16,500 cost of its attendance at the institute. Donations can be made on the Unreasonable Marketplace website.