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Enough of child, maternal deaths

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Enough of child, maternal deaths

The verdict by Bill Gates on Nigeria as one of the most dangerous places to give birth did not come as a surprise. Gates should know and he knows what he is saying.

As the world’s second richest man and co-chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has contributed immensely to child and maternal mortality issues across the globe, particularly the African continent.

Gates, who recently spoke at the Expanded National Economic Council (NEC), presided over by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in Abuja, said Nigeria had the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world behind Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad.

The philanthropist also disclosed that his foundation’s biggest office in Africa was in Nigeria where he had committed over $1.6 billion with the intention of increasing his commitment in the country.

He said: “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.” Health issues generally have become problematic in Nigeria.

There has been a steady increase in child and maternal mortality rate in the country. On a daily basis, women die as a result of pregnancy or pregnancy related cases in Nigeria.

Every day, 145 women of child-bearing age die while 576 maternal deaths occur per every 100,000 life birth in Nigeria every year, according to the 2013 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) rates Nigeria as the second country with highest maternal death rate in the world with its contribution of 15 per cent of annual global maternal deaths.

According to WHO, the country with the highest number of maternal death globally is India, followed by Nigeria. India’s population is about 1.3 billion while Nigeria has about 183 million people.

Sever a l f a c t o r s , such as policy summersault on the part of government because of changes in government, lack of funding from government, high unemployment rate, poverty, high cost of medical servic e s, inadequate healthcare p e r s o n – nel, lack of drugs, among others, greatly affect access to healthcare delivery.

For instance, provision of free medical services, especially for pregnant women, anchored on the ‘Mother and Care’ module, was the fulcrum of the immediate past administration in Ondo State.

The Mother and Care hospitals offered free pre-natal and post-natal treatment for pregnant women, delivery as well as their children after birth. This improved chances of survival for pregnant women and therefore, reduced child and maternal mortality rate in the state.

Today, that is history in the state. The present administration has abolished the free treatment for pregnant women in the Mother and Care hospitals. Five women die of child birth every hour in both rural and poor urban centres and over 400,000 women die annually in Nigeria from child birth related complications, while one in 15 babies will die before their first birthday and about one in eight before their fifth birthday.

A recent World Bank report noted that in 2016, nearly 10 per cent of new born deaths in the world o c c u r r e d in Nigeria. Based on its ranking, Nigeria e m e r g e d third out of five countries accounting for half of all new born deaths in 2016. Also, a joint report by WHO, United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and World Bank says Nigeria recorded 58,000 maternal mortalities in 2015.

The report was presented at the 2017 Annual Faculty Day Lecture by the Faculty of Public Health and Community Medicine, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria. Ms. Olusola Odujinrin, who presented the report, lamented the number of women who lost their lives to pregnancy and child related causes. She said: “The prevalence depends on several factors, including living in an urban or rural area, socio-economic status and geo-political zone.

“The most worrisome is the report from North-East where MMR is highest: 1,549/100,000 live births in comparison to the South-West where 165/100,000 was recorded.”

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, also said: “Nigeria is next to the worst which is Chad. While Nigeria contributed only 2.4 per cent to the global population; it is unfortunate that we contribute 14 per cent to global maternal mortality, a trend which needs to be reversed.”

It is unacceptable that pregnancy and delivery will still serve a death sentence for women at this age in Nigeria. We, therefore, urge government at every level to take conscious effort to reduce drastically, if not eliminate, maternal mortality.

This can be achieved by eliminating factors preventing the provision of quality healthcare delivery. It is possible with determination, commitment and sincerity of purpose.

This, Adewole agreed, is possible when Nigeria could achieve below 100 ratio by 2030 and 300 maternal mortality rate in 2018. According to him, it is achievable if government strengthens the various social intervention programmes.

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