Male community elders can support maternal and newborn health (Nigeria)


A study in Nigeria has looked at how community elders, aged from 50 all the way to 101, understand barriers to maternal and newborn health, and what they think might be done about them.

The authors found that community elders were aware of the benefits of skilled maternal healthcare services and were willing to pledge support for initiatives to improve health, such as maternal and newborn health education and incentivising the participation of men.

The researchers found community elders to be in a good position to influence men’s behaviour – they have a powerful role in defining social norms. They are a source of information to those seeking ways to improve maternal and newborn health at community level. The researchers also found that the elders need support and information about how to overcome barriers to maternal and newborn health.

The study took place in Edo, a rural region in Nigeria. Nine conversations were organised, each 60 to 90 minutes long, together including 128 elders. The discussions focused on maternal death and morbidity in the community, perceptions about barriers and perceptions about solutions.

The elders identified five barriers to improved maternal and newborn health.

In the community

  • Consideration of health knowledge to be the responsibility of women only and not men.
  • A continuing preference for traditional birth treatment.

At health centres

  • High cost to use health facilities.
  • Dissatisfaction with the quality of health facilities (poorly equipped, unskilled staff, absentee staff).
  • Accessibility of health services – distance, poor roads, lack of transportation.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with a population of 180 million and a growth rate of 3%. Nigeria accounts for 19% of the global total pregnancy-related deaths.


Yaya A, Okonofua F, Ntoimo L, Udenigwe O & Bishwajit G (2019), Men’s perception of barriers to women’s use and access of skilled pregnancy care in rural Nigeria: A qualitative study, Reproductive Health 16

Photo: USAID. Creative Commons.