By. Joshua Nwachukwu
On September 2000, 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organisations agreed to achieve some millennium development goals (MDG) by 2015; one of which is to reduce child mortality rate and improve maternal health. An estimated 287, 000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2010 worldwide, a decline of 47% from 1990 level. Most of the women died due to lack of emergency care, and according to Dr. Oluwarotimi Akinola, a Gynaecologist, “Nigeria accounts for a disproportionate 10 percent of the global maternal deaths. No fewer than 11,600 maternal deaths were recorded in Nigeria in the last three months with 45 cases recorded daily, the second highest in the world after India.”
“The major causes of the high maternal mortality rate in Nigeria are haemorrhage infection, hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, obstructed labour and anaemia. Any effort by the government to drastically reduce maternal mortality rates must address the root causes of delays in seeking health care, accessing healthcare and receiving help at the centre,” he said.
Thus, early this year at Addis Ababa, at the African Union Summit, African leaders committed themselves to strengthening health systems and ensuring the availability of life-saving devices; investing in human resources for health, building skilled and motivated workforces, including midwives. Unfortunately, among the things they agreed to do was also to expand access to family planning and other reproductive health services with and meet “the huge unmet need women have for contraception.” No doubt, this last is Melinda Gate’s TED speech last year—her billion must be pulling their strings.
Tragically, Nigeria’s Federal Government has swallowed her condoms and contraceptives help hook, line and sinker, and giving it priority over all the others noble targets agreed at Addis Ababa. Last year for instance, Dr. Bridget Okoeguale, Director of Family Health announced that the Federal Government has allocated the sum of $11.5 million to purchase condoms and contraceptives. For who, I ask? Are condoms the only way to reduce maternal mortality? How much have they allocated to providing clean tap water, electricity and well equipped maternity centres?
Thankfully the state governments have better sense. The Lagos state government has built over 60 Primary Health Care centres and the first 24-hour comprehensive basic health care facility in Nigeria. It is also providing toll free emergency call lines dedicated to attend to urgent issues pertaining to pregnant women and nursing mothers. And in Ondo state, they are distributing cell phones to poor pregnant women in rural areas. Experts say it has reduced maternal and infant mortality by 30%. Oyo state has come up with the innovative “Access to basic medical care foundation” (ABC) clinics. In my opinion, bringing an effective primary health system to the grassroots, these States are better positioned to drop maternal and infant mortality rate by 2015.