Reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria

A report on Nigeria’s high maternal mortality rate recently released showed that about 400,000 women die every year in the country from childbirth related complications.

According to the report by the Chairman, Association for Advancement of Family Planning, Dr. Ejike Oji, the nation’s maternal mortality ratio has hit 576 deaths of every 100,000 live births daily.

This report makes Nigeria the second highest cases of maternal mortality in the world after India. The findings show that advancement made in 2013 when the rate dropped to 224 deaths per 100,000 live births has now reversed.

There is also an indication that causes of deaths in women are associated with high risk pregnancies, including obstructed labour in girls, complications resulting from procuring abortions due to unwanted pregnancies and complications that result from pregnancies.

Indeed, the close relationship between the well being of the mother and child, justifies the need to integrate maternal, newborn and child health interventions, a positive initiative which has taken root around the Country, including Lagos State.

A current World Health Organisation (WHO) data estimate a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is 1 in 13.

Even though many of these deaths are preventable.

Ante-natal and post-natal hospital attendance is vital to health of the mother and the baby. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has re-affirmed the need for pregnant women to go for ante-natal care at least four times before delivery.

Presently, less than 20 per cent of health facilities offer emergency obstetrics care and only 35 per cent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants.

Given that some causes of maternal mortality are the same in developing and developed world, the prevalence is significantly lower in the developed world.

Obviously, this high maternal mortality rate should be a wakeup call for the Government to ensure safe health care delivery in the country.

It will be recalled that the Federal Government promised additional 10,000 health centres across the 774 council areas in the Country. Expediting action on this initiative is essential.

Aside this, adequate healthcare facilities, health workers particularly, midwives to attend to these pregnant women should be trained and re-orientated for better performance.

Government should urgently embark on public enlightenment campaigns on the importance of regular ante-natal clinic attendance by pregnant women.

Posting of midwives to rural areas with the right incentives is pertinent in efforts to save the lives of more women and new borns.

Thus, it is important to sensitise pregnant women to stop patronising unskilled birth attendants.

Moreso, where skilled birth attendants are in short supply, government should train local birth attendants on basic child delivery skills and where complications arise, referral should be made to the nearest health facilities.

In view of this, Lagos State deserves accolades for its various programmes on maternal and new born health. Most recent was the week-long free screening, checks and child immunisation held at various health centres across the State.

Hence, to make safe motherhood a reality in Nigeria, Government should endeavour to further subsidise the cost of child delivery to allow more pregnant women access health care services.

Gilbert Tamuno

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