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Maternal Health Advocate Urges Government Action to Decrease Mortality Rates

Reduction of the rising maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is possible if the government is willing to improve quality and access to healthcare facilities.

This was the submission of the Dean of School of Nursing Sciences, Professor Christiana Sowunmi while delivering Babcock University’s 45th inaugural lecture.
In a paper, Plummeting Maternal Mortality Rate: An Uphill Task in Nigeria, the Professor of Maternal and Child Health argued that “many of the pregnancy-related causes of death were preventable with effective, safe, patient-centred quality maternal and child healthcare services.”

She said to further cut down the maternal mortality rate in the country, healthcare resources needed by pregnant women should be made accessible at affordable prices.

“Government need to invest voted material resources in infrastructure development, equipment and drugs for the adequate provision of basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care in accordance to global standards,” she further suggested.

According to her, while Nigeria makes up 2.4% of the world’s population, it currently contributes 10 per cent of global maternal deaths placing it third behind South Sudan and Chad.

Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said, “A Nigerian woman has 1 in 22 lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum or post abortion compared with the lifetime risk of 1 in 4,900 in developed countries.”

Aside inadequacy and quality of healthcare facilities, she attributed high maternal mortality to the non-attendance of antenatal care, unavailability of skilled birth attendants during labour as well as low maternal education and socio-cultural norms against women among others.
Prof. Sowunmi said these are compounded by patients’ non-compliance with recommended treatments and preference for traditional birth attendants.

She believes these sad narratives can be reversed if more women have access to quality healthcare facilities.

“Patient satisfaction is a strong indicator for healthcare quality. When patients are satisfied, they will return for institutional delivery rather than patronize Traditional Birth Attendants or worse still, totally uninformed birth attendant.”

Among others, she recommended a four-point strategy to reducing Nigeria’s maternal mortality burden: accessible and affordable healthcare; political will; harnessing of WHO’s provisions and upgrade of health personnel knowledge and skill.

“Reduction of maternal mortality rate is possible as documented in some pragmatic approach undertaken by government for example the Abiye scheme of Ondo State.”

“I call on governments in other southwestern states to replicate such schemes to reduce the menace in the Southwest, Nigeria and Africa as a whole.”

She enjoined colleagues in the healthcare sector to continue to step up their research work so as to plummet the high rate of maternal deaths in Nigeria.

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