There is no contesting the fact that striving to combat maternal mortality is one of the key pointers to the priority any nation is willing to confer on the sanctity of human lives as a development paradigm.
Indeed, the reduction of maternal and neo-natal deaths has long been a challenge especially in sub Saharan African countries most of which are battling with shortage of resources, a situation that is compounded by other diseases.
A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that no fewer than 600,000 women have died due to childbirth or pregnancy-related complications. In Nigeria, the situation is alarming as the nation accounts for about 10 percent of this appalling figure.
Available statistics also indicate that Nigeria currently has a maternal mortality rate of 576 per 100,000 live births with a newborn mortality rate of 37 per 1,000 live births. It is estimated that about 53,000 women die in the country every year while giving birth and more than 240,000 new babies die.
We recall with nostalgia a report tagged, “An Agenda for Ending Preventable Child Deaths,” which considered trends in child and infant mortality, as well as measures to sustain health programmes and ensure equity over periods exceeding 10 years. Indeed, this report concluded that Nigeria made very little progress. It ranks Nigeria 24 among 75 countries for reduction in under-five mortality, equity and sustainability.
In the opinion of this newspaper, it is disheartening that in this age of science and knowledge, some Nigerian women, especially those from rural low-income households, hardly receive health care from trained providers or care givers. Also, a sizeable number of women giving birth do not receive antenatal care from trained health care providers.
Over the years, government, in conjunction with some development partners, initiated some programmes and policies which were believed to have the potential to improve the quality of maternal health care. But it does appear the Nigeria is far from confronting the monster of maternal mortality, as incidence of women dying during childbirth is still rife.
The country, in our view, has what it takes to save the lives of mothers and the newborn. All that is needed is for individuals, families, communities, organisations and government to commit to ending it by doing more to minimize the many factors that cause these avoidable deaths. Interestingly, there are different intervention packages and programmes initiated by both government and non-governmental organisations including international development partners aimed at tackling the problem.
One of such interventions in recent times is the partnership between the federal government and Coca-Cola where an initiative worth N4 billion was launched to help tackle the country’s high maternal and child mortality rate.
Labelled Safe Birth Initiative (SBI), the initiative will also be implemented in partnership with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a non -governmental organisation, Medshare International.
Speaking during the launch of the initiative, the minister of health, Prof Isaac Adewole, said government was working towards reducing the current maternal mortality rates to the targeted ratio of 140 per 100,000 live births and 12 per 1,000 neonatal and stillbirths by 2030 respectively.
He also said that the initiative would be expanded in the next two years, and sustained through partnership with other related organisations in the public and private sectors. While commending the forerunners of the initiative for this laudable drive, we admonish them to put in place measures that will forestall abuse. Such laudable programmes in the past rarely recorded desired success because of abuses by persons saddled with the responsibilities of managing them.
It is the considered view of this newspaper that to achieve the overall objective of ending pregnancy-related deaths or reducing it to the barest minimum, government at all levels must make a commitment to providing adequate resources, ensure effective and efficient deployment of such resources which include, but not limited to, up-to-date equipment.
Once this is done, it is our hope that the nation will be on its way to ending the many needless deaths associated with childbearing. There is no better time than now for the nation to confront the major drivers of maternal mortality and morbidity such as obstetric hemorrhages and pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy-related complication characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to an organ, usually the liver or kidneys.
As the authorities continue in the efforts to control these appalling statistics, we are compelled to suggest that government, at all levels, ought to adopt practices such as providing genuine maternity care for poor women while stepping up sensitisation campaigns against harmful social and cultural practices which discourage women from accessing antenatal services.
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