The Grand Challenge Canada (GCC) Saving Lives at Birth Pilot project was designed to address high rate of maternal and neonatal death in Jigawa and Katsina states of Northern Nigeria (NDHS, 2008). It seeks to improve maternal and neo-natal health in these two states by supporting Religious Opinion Leaders (ROLs) to get involved and communicate clear and correct messages in support of best practices and health seeking decision making at community levels. The objectives of the pilot project were: to reduce numbers and coverage of incorrect and negative public pronouncements against maternal and neonatal health (M&NH) made by 40 influential Islamic Opinion Leaders (ISOLs) in poor conservative communities with dominant Muslim populations in Northern Nigeria and to increase the numbers and coverage of correct and positive public pronouncements in support of maternal and neonatal health made by 40 influential Islamic Opinion Leaders who formally made negative statements in poor conservative communities with dominant Muslim populations in Northern Nigeria.
The dRPC commenced the project with a sensitization workshop titled – Leadership Development for M&NCH. It was a secular event in which participants were taken through the causes and consequences of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in their communities and the wider society. The training was followed by the Islam and M&NNH study tour to Egypt to learn through experimental interactions the positive role ISOLs actually plan creating demand for maternal and neonatal health services.