In July 2017, T.R. Goldman traveled to Nigeria for two weeks to report on a story for the U.S. policy journal, Health Affairs, about a promising newborn health intervention—as near to a silver bullet as exists in global health. What does it take for a developing country like Nigeria to roll out a new healthcare protocol for newborns that can dramatically reduce neonatal mortality?
Goldman discusses the challenges this country faces as it tries to make the application of chlorhexidine gel to a newborn’s umbilical cord standard practice throughout the whole country. He visited federal health ministry officials in the capital Abuja, a drug manufacturer near Nigeria’s commercial center, Lagos, and clinics and hospitals in central Nigeria’s mostly rural Kogi State. Along the way he found a host of challenges, some obvious, some less so, that illuminate how difficult it can be to create a new health protocol in a vast country with a huge gap between rich and poor and major cultural differences between the north and south.