Rotary maternal health project receives royal recognition
Nigerian Emir Shehu Idris of Zazzau (right) congratulates PDG Robert Zinser during a Turbanning Ceremony at the emir's palace in Zaria 8 August. Photo by Matthias Schütt
In appreciation for his work in improving maternal health care in northern Nigeria, Past Governor Robert Zinser of District 1860 (Germany) was initiated into the inner circle of the Emir of Zazzau, 1 of 10 powerful traditional leaders in northern Nigeria.
Emir Shehu Idris awarded Zinser the traditional title of Shahon Zazzau (Eagle of Zazzau) during a special ceremony 8 August at the emir’s palace in Zaria.
Zinser is the project coordinator of a joint Nigerian-Austrian-German Rotary project to treat and prevent obstetric fistula, a painful birth injury that often results in a stillborn child and leaves the woman with chronic incontinence.
"The treatment of fistula patients," says Zinser, "is a humanitarian commitment to help the weakest in Nigeria’s society. But this can only be the first step. What we actually pursue is a comprehensive approach to raise awareness for medical care for women and rather prevent obstetric fistula."
Reducing child mortality
As vice chair of the Rotary Action Group for Population and Development , Zinser, a member of the Rotary Club of Ludwigshafen-Rheinschanze, has been involved in three projects in Nigeria since 1995, including conducting advocacy and awareness campaigns on child spacing and the risks of early marriage, training health personnel, and delivering quality equipment to hospitals, with the goal of reducing maternal and child mortality.
In 2005 the current €1 million (US$1.46 million) project was started in the two states of Kano and Kaduna with a target population of 5 million women. The elements of this approach include radio serials, training of health personnel, delivery of medical equipment, and quality improvement of structure, process, and outcome.
Zinser is now the only non-Nigerian on the Emirate Council. During the turbanning ceremony, a white turban was placed on his head. Zinser thanked the emir by handing over one of the 3,000 mosquito nets donated for distribution to families during recent polio vaccination efforts, one of several projects directed at reducing mother and child mortality in Nigeria.
The support of Nigeria's emirs, traditional religious leaders who work in close cooperation with the Nigerian administration, is critical to the continued success of Zinser's work.