iStock_Nigerian_girl (2)

A few years ago, The Economist conducted an extensive analysis to determine the answer to the following questions: Where is the best place in the world to be born, and where is the worst? The magazine’s experts evaluated the nations of the world using a wide variety of indicators – healthcare and educational systems, crime rates and poverty levels, economic activity, governance and political institutions, and more.

Many of the countries you would expect to top the list in fact did – Switzerland, Australia, Norway and Sweden. The report ends with a statement, which, as the son of Nigerians, was especially painful for me to read: “Among the countries covered, Nigeria comes last: it is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013. ”

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country — 1 out of every 5 Africans is Nigerian. It is also Africa’s most troubled country, especially for women and girls. Nigeria has the world’s highest number of primary-age children not attending school — 10.5 million. Every ten minutes, at least one Nigerian woman dies in childbirth. Each year, one million Nigerian children do not live to see their fifth birthday. The great tragedy here is that almost all of these fatalities are preventable.

I have committed my life to ensuring that more and more of Nigeria’s women and children do not suffer silent, unmourned deaths. I fight every day to help them not only survive, but to flourish. I am honored to lead an organization, The GEANCO Foundation, with the challenging and immensely fulfilling mission of saving and transforming lives in the heart of Africa.

We work tirelessly to bring health and hope to a region of the world in dire need of both. Through our special medical missions, we provide free surgeries, including complex hip and knee replacements, to poor patients in constant agony. We lead a Clinton Global Initiative project to screen and treat women and children for anemia, a dangerous blood condition. We are developing a world-class hospital in the country. We also provide computers, books, clothing and medicine to local schools.

We also rouse support from coast-to-coast to make this life-changing work possible. In September, we held an event in Hollywood at which we honored acclaimed British-Nigerian actors Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and David Oyelowo (Selma). We were also beyond honored and delighted to receive a six-figure donation from Oprah Winfrey in connection with this event.

On November 13, we will hold a special event in Chicago, and on December 9, we will be in New York. (You can find out more information about those events on our website.)

A brand new year will all-too-soon be upon us. Let’s commit ourselves to ensuring that every Nigerian baby that comes into the world in 2016 will enter with brighter hope for a safe, healthy and joyful life. Let’s give every child in Nigeria a chance to truly thrive. Let’s bring health and hope to the heart of Africa.

(Image via