Recently, I ended up in a popular spot in Lagos state where a group of people crowded around a sidewalk, all beaming with joy and chattering away at the wonder they crowded around; a pregnant woman who had just been delivered of a healthy baby boy by a passer-by obstetrician in an emergency labour by that side of the road. The new mother was said to have been on her way to a traditional herb maker when she went into early labour before the doctor, who was on his way to his clinic, came to the woman’s aid in an event that wowed an impressed crowd.original article
About 37% of Nigerian women go to churches, local midwives and all sorts of professionally unqualified personnel for delivery of their babies. This is a disturbing phenomenon as this set of expecting mothers are exposed to higher risks of loss of their baby’s, as well as their own lives arising from complications that might unexpectedly become a problem before, during and after labour, as this may have fatal complications if not appropriately dealt with.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) record, “every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 babies under five years old and 145 women of child-bearing age”. This makes the country one of the largest contributors to the infant and maternal mortality rate of the world. Infant and maternal mortality is the death of a child or mother caused by diseases and other conditions related to pregnancy, labour, childbirth, etc. In Nigeria, 1 in 13 of pregnant women runs the risk of dying from pregnancy and child birth, with a significant portion of these deaths preventable. Traditionally, the most common causes of maternal mortality worldwide are, labour complications, diarrhea, pneumonia, hypertension, dehydration; while infants may die due to malnutrition, malaria, congenital malformation, infection and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Nigeria and many other third world countries have been touted as not so good places to give birth, or, in fact, raise a child, essentially because of the harsh economic predicaments and the abysmally low standard of hygienic practices. Experts at World Development Indicators (WDI) have asserted that both issues are a threat to fundamental human rights. Analysis of recent years proves that even though Nigeria has been cutting down the trend of infant and maternal mortality rates, it is still not close to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing the horrible plight by a third by the end of 2015. Underneath all these assertions and statistics lies the psychological trauma of thousands of families who have lost children, wives and mothers to this preventable scourge.
So why is the ratio of maternal and infant mortality still relatively high in Nigeria? The overarching problem has to be the stagnant healthcare system in the country that has been beclouded by inadequate equipment and facilities. Chief Nursing Officer in Ilasa Public Health Centre (PHC) had this to say “(members of) staff contribute money from their own pockets to pay PHCN officials whenever they come around for disconnection (of power supply); we still use lanterns and torch lights in the labour rooms”. In 2013, only 30 Public Health Centers (PHC) were assessable in Lagos; while out of the 30 PHCs, almost all were unable to handle post-partum-hemorrhage which is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (ThisDay, April 2014). Another cause of this scourge can be traced to the incessant strikes of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the absence of palliative care in emergency situations, but this can also be traced back to the government’s commitment to an adequate healthcare system. Other equally dangerous causes may include sociocultural factors majorly illiteracy and poverty which have contributed to continued harmful traditional practices.
Experts have attributed the level of a country’s development to its maternal and infant mortality rate (Articles Ng, 2013). Thus, the lower the rate it happens, the higher the perceived growth of the country. Hence, this objective – to lower the mortality rate – is a national priority. Children and mothers are dying because those who are meant to prevent it are not acting or committed enough to cause massive improvement; the government and health professionals are not encouraging pregnant women to attend ante-natal clinics early enough especially rural dwellers. Rural areas should be a particular area of interest as they are areas that need a lot of orientation on harmful traditional health practices. Midwives should also get consistently updated education on safe delivery.