Nigeria’s Champion of Maternal and Child Health

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

It was the death in childbirth of a dear friend that spurred Adepeju Jaiyeoba, then a young lawyer in Lagos, Nigeria, to take action. It was 2011, and 978 out of every 100,000 Nigerian women — 40,000 a year — were dying from complications during childbirth. Recalling her friend recently, Jaiyeoba said: “She was educated, she had access to one of the best health care facilities in Nigeria, she was informed and was also financially empowered. . . . [It] made me wonder what was happening in rural communities.”
Jaiyeoba, in her late 20s at the time, looked for ways to ensure that mothers and traditional birth attendants were provided both the skills and tools to deliver their babies safely.
Then she launched the Brown Button Foundation — based in Lagos, Nigeria’s business center, and whimsically named after belly buttons. Within four years, it had helped train some 8,000 attendants. To further boost maternal health, in 2013 the foundation launched Mother’s Delivery Kits, which distributes sterile supplies for childbirth. Each kit costs around $5, and the company employs some 85 people.
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