Olapeju Agunbiade is the pretty CEO of Omotayo Maternity Home at Oke-Ado, in Ibadan. She took over the running of the home from her mum a few years back after she relocated from London, and she has done remarkably well, with it. She is an old girl of St. Annes School, Molete in Ibadan. She studied at London South Bank University (LSBU). She also studied Assisted Reproduction at the University of Leeds.
She started her Free Antenatal & Free Delivery last February and she has been able to provide this unique service to a lot of less privileged couples in Ibadan. Recently, she was our guest on City People TV Instagram Live Chat with SEYE KEHINDE where she revealed why she came up with that policy. Below are excerpts of the chat.
Let’s start by you introducing yourself…
My name is Olapeju Agunbiade, I am the CEO of Omotayo Maternity Home and the popular Radio Programme. Let’s Talk About It as well. I have a nursing background, I am also a Midwife.
Recently, you were in the news for having helped to deliver over 100 babies for free. Tell us about your foundation and projects?
I relocated to Nigeria to take over my mother’s business, which is Maternity and child care; Omotayo Maternity Home in Ibadan. I took over the business 6 years ago. Obviously, when I got to Nigeria some realities dawned on me. I just saw life as it is that things are really tough, things are hard, why are our women, mothers dying. All over the world about 830 women die of pregnancy-related issues, but out of 830, we got 145 deaths in Nigeria, so, in every 24 hours period there will be at least 145 women that would die in Nigeria, and I am sure that is an underestimation, it is really more than that. So, why is that happening?
It is obvious and crystal clear, I am just trying to make a difference, trying to cut the numbers down. If out of 145 deaths daily I can cut down 5; based on the population and the funds available. I will be happy. So, it is just about saving women’s life. What I am doing is fundraising with friends and families, and the fund is going towards free antenatal care and free delivery at Omotayo Maternity.
And what has been your experience so far?
Mixed feelings: Let me talk about the positive first. I feel happy, I feel fulfilled. You know the way the women pray when we discharge them after delivery, you can tell that they appreciate what I am doing. So, I am feeling fulfilled. That is number one. I feel very sad when women come in with nothing. What do I mean by nothing? They may just come in with 2 sanitary pads, and sometimes you wonder’ “you have been pregnant for 9 months, you should have at least a few things saved. But in all honesty, poverty is real and that is painful. So, I am doing all I can do, doing my best to make a difference and I have promised myself to keep going.
We have delivered 105 babies free of charge. We started in February.
But, why was there a need to do that?
Constantly, I come in contact with women to start with who will come to my hospital and at booking, when you give them an idea of how much the delivery would cost they will retract; they will tell you they can’t afford it. And how much is the money we are talking about? Less than 50k, but they cannot afford it. Sometimes they will do the booking but won’t come for antenatal care. Along the line they will just bump back, they have probably been somewhere in most cases mission house, and their labour has been obstructed, meaning when labour has not progressed for a long time. So, they have been in mission hospitals or just at home labouring and when they do not have any other choice that is when they come to Omotayo. I will ask them “why did it take you this long”? They would say it’s because of money. At that time it would have become an emergency and they end up having an emergency Caesarian Session (CS) on matters that could have been dealt with on a low-risk basis. They could have delivered their baby well. 8 out of 10 would have delivered through their virginal without any problem but because they have been to other places whereby they have been looked after by people that are not skilled; people that are not trained enough to actually draw the line that this is high risk. I just thought to myself, I am not throwing a party, instead of throwing a party I am going to raise funds and I am going to start the project and I did.
How come you took after your mum who is also a midwife?
To be sincere with you I have asked myself why and how I don’t know. Coincidence maybe, and probably maybe because my mother is my role model. Maybe my subconscious when my mum was going to work as a child, may be I started loving what she did or what she was doing. But honestly, there was a struggle to decide, which part to go. My dad refused, he said I was not going to be a Midwife. He insisted I must go to the University and study English, which I resisted. He actually thought maybe my mother influenced me, but I have never had a one-on-one conversation with my mother about it while growing up. So, it’s just the way God made it to be.
Tell us about your Maternity Home, how come it is called Omotayo?
Omotayo started 44 years ago when my mum decided to do something different. She decided she could start a private unit, so she resigned and started Omotayo. On how she got the name; it was a Bishop that came to pray, it was Methodist family Bishop, Reverend Adeboyejo, who my parents asked to give us the name for the hospital and he just gave it Omotayo.
So, he was the one who chose the name for my parent. My mum retired 9 years ago.
What would be your message to women out there in terms of how to help the project?
I always say this, those that would benefit from what I am doing are not on Instagram or Facebook. They are the people that cannot afford to be on social media. So, when I am on social media I am fundraising, I am thinking how and how. So, for those watching what I would love is for them to be part of this life-changing project and donate whatever amount their heart desires so that the project can continue so that we can continue to make this project a beautiful project. So, we can continue to save lives, and continue to save babies.
Do you have a target in mind? Are you trying to get to a particular number before the end of the year?
Our desire is to hit 250 by December and I would be happy. It is a project I don’t know when it will stop and I am still feeling good about it. I am happy with the success recorded so far.
Who are your target audience and how do you get to them?
What we do every now and then is we reach out to markets. We have people that go to the markets to inform the market women. Most radios in Ibadan too always assist us in announcing to the women whenever we have any programme. We do that once or twice a week. It is a bit of too good to be true, a lot of people out there have got their doubts but it is just a matter of come and see. What I have learnt also is to make them committed, by allowing them pay for their registration.
Because sometimes they take it for granted. So, I made them pay 1500 to be registered instead of just walking in which sometimes they can’t even afford.
When you relocated to Nigeria, were you shocked at what you found, comparing the practice abroad and here in Nigeria?
I was shocked and it took me almost a year to come to terms with if I want to stay or if I am sure I can cope. In Nigeria, I have learnt to take my mind off somethings. Things are not in place in this country, like when a couple knows they need Caesarian Session and they say to me “Omotayo it’s okay let that baby die” just because they cannot afford it. Times without number they would say if CS is the only solution then let the baby die, save my wife’s life. But thank God for fundraisers, at least we have had few CS for free.
I have got people that I can call at any time and they would raise the money for me withing a very short time. But, for someone to say “okay, another child would come” it is heartbreaking and sad. Another challenge is religion, and as a matter of keeping myself sane, we have decided not to look after Jehovah’s Witness members, you know they are against blood transfusion, and will not help when things go wrong. So, treating a Jehovah’s Witness is a no go area for me because if there is bleeding and a woman needs blood, of course, we can get blood but their doctrine goes against it.
Do you think a solution would be found to all of these, may be the government can also coming and support?
There may be a solution and the only solution is for the Government to see and feel what people are going through. There is a lot of distraction, so Maternal and Child health as one project is a big deal. If the government can shift a bit and give it a lot of attention.
We do not even have a register; in a month, how many pregnant women are booked in Nigeria, do we know? How many live births do we have in a day or week? How many babies make it to their first birthday, do we know? So, we need to start from getting our statistics right, making sure we are in touch with women at the grassroots level. The market women are also human beings. You don’t have to be rich to have a safe delivery. You don’t have to be rich to have access to good care. You don’t have to be rich to deliver your baby in a safe environment.