For Nigeria to witness reduction in maternal and child deaths, some critical factors such as lack of skilled birth attendants , denial of access to care owing to cultural beliefs and practices, poor healthcare financing and inadequate healthcare facilities must be holistically addressed by the state and Federal governments .
Ways of overcoming such challenge according to stakeholders at a Media Forum on Maternal Health Accountability organised by Devcoms in Lagos recently ,was to improve access to maternal health in Nigeria through adequate funding and by making Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in the country more robust, effective and functional.
The media forum tagged ‘Bridging the Gap’ was put together by Devcoms in conjunction with group of civil society organizations and stakeholders on maternal health known as ‘The NOTAGAIN’ campaign team. Describing the high rate of maternal deaths in Nigeria as undesirable, the stakeholders noted that the issue of inadequate funding and the ineffectiveness of the PHCs , must be put on the front burner by the Muhammadu Buhari led administration as most PHCs in the country which are closer to the people, were unable to handle some of the pregnancy related problems .
Haemorrhage, infections, unsafe abortion, eclampsia, malaria, anaemia, and other ailments such as HIV/AIDS have been identified as the main causes of the high maternal mortality rates in the country. According to the stakeholders, most times, some of these PHCs don’t have equipment and ambulances for referral processes to send patients to the general hospital for attention. Statistics from UNICEF, show that every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 underfive year olds and 145 women of childbearing age, thereby making Nigeria the second largest contributor to the under– five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
In her presentation, Executive Director, Women Advocates’ Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, decried the way and manner successive governments have failed to implement both national and internationals laws and policies that will significantly address the problem of maternal death and morbidity in Nigeria.
According to her, a fact finding report entitled: “Broken Promises: Human Rights, Accountability, and Maternal Death in Nigeria” carried out by WARDC, showed that, despite knowledge that Nigerian government had repeatedly identified maternal mortality and morbidity as a pressing problem and developed laws and policies in response, these actions have not yet translated into significant improvement in maternal health throughout the country.
“These programmes like the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) and the Saving One Million Lives have failed to deliver healthcare to the majority of women and children, largely because of inadequate funding and resources, poor management, inequitable implementation and lack of transparency and accountability. “The recently passed National Health Law states the roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local government and directs 2per cent of Nigeria’s considerable oil revenues to primary health care”, she said.
– Angela Onwuzo