Saving our pregnant women and infant babies

Health is wealth is a popular idiom.The usage of it speaks volume when, for instance, a family member, a friend or a colleague is sick; moreso, when we ourselves are not in the right frame of healthiness.

To this end our understanding and interpretation of this idiom transcends a mere statement of fact about a healthy life. What this means is that you cannot be wealthy without a measures of health.

One may want to ask, what then is wealth, because several interpretations of wealth have made it impossible to appreciate what wealth is all about, especially as majority see it as material possession. Wealth, according to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, is “a large amount of money, property, etc that a person or country owns”. It also defines it as “wealth of something”.

Thus, wealth, for us, is not just money or material possessions but also the weathiness of our physical body, mentally and pschologically. That is why we must place premium value on our physical well being above just seeking material possession.

The foregoing is tied to the abysmal state of health of Nigerian pregnant women. A lot of factors have been attributed to its causes. They include collapse of the primary health care system, poor infrastructure, inter-professional rivalry, incessant labour disputes, poor accountability, as well as inefficient and limited health insurance coverage and patient-centred health financing.

The above has hindered the health sector from adequately providing health care services to pregnant Nigerian women across the country. This is evident from the structure of health sector potentiality in Nigeria, with the Primary Health Care Centres at the local government areas having the responsibility that centrally focuses on preventive care.

Then we have the secondary health bodies that deal on curative levels.The last on the structure is the tertiary health institutions that provide preventive, curative care, training research and complementary services.

Interesting, from the above we don’t expect poor health services and care for our mothers, sisters and daughters. But alas! It is like the structure and organisation serves the stagnation of our health sector that has practically aggravated maternal and infants mortality rates in Nigeria.

Recent findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that Nigeria accounts for over 34 percent of global maternal deaths. Therefore, out of every 22 pregnant Nigerian women, one of them dies at the point of delivering their infants babies. And the lifetime associated with the risk of infant baby surviving is very slim. In contrast, in developed countries, the data differ as it is one in every 4900 pregnant women die.

However, the following are said to have contributed to pregnant women and infants dying doing delivery. They include postpartum haemorrhage, prolonged obstructive labour, convulsion, infection from fever and complications from abortions.

Regrettably, two-thirds of all maternal deaths that happened in sub-Saharan Africa is recorded in Nigeria. This is a sad narrative as 50,000 pregnant Nigerian women die yearly. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, asserts that one in seven global maternal deaths occurs in Nigeria, a situation whereby both Nigeria and indian have been found to contribute to one-third of global pregnant women deaths.

The disappointment coming from our health sector structure and organisation to tackle maternal mortality is real. This results to losing our loved ones to the cold hands of death. Research findings by experts revealed that close to 95 per cent of deaths during childbirth are preventable through a multifaceted maternal health, improving and prevention mechanism for pregnant women and babies against diseases.

The question now is how much effort is the Nigerian state undertaking to save the lives of pregnant women and infant babies, because the rate is alarming and is not just a fixated problem of the Northern region of the country? The problem is widespread, highly and grossly under reported except when INGOs and local NGOs with support from donor sgencies report it.

Conversely, it is evident that poor health facilities across Nigeria contributes significantly to the worsening maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. So, what effort should we put in place for our pregnant women to obtain high-quality health care?

This now draws our attention to public spending on health care in Nigeria. The World Bank report highlights, for instance, what Nigeria spends on public health care that amounts to just 3.89% of its $495 billion GDP (Gross Domestic Product). A comparison with the liked of South Africa with 8.25% and 5.17% of Kenya, it shows we are far below.

The current Nigeria’s 206 million population has been projected to double by 2050, according to the United Nation (UN). Therefore, it is about time, Nigeria’s policy makers lookef critically at the pathetic situation in the health sector that requires huge funding.

Although, opinions on modern healthcare argue that it is not expected to be free because it is expensive we however believe the government has a responsibility to make it accessible and affordable to all. We know Nigerians pay out-of-pocket their to access healthcare, even when it is officially free.

To address the issue, first, the federal, state and local governments should sustain qualitative and affordable maternal and infant health care system. Second, there should be the right health education to remove all forms of socio-cultural and religious biases against seeking modern health care for pregnant women. This would help to eliminate rooted cultural and religious beliefs barriers. We also see the need to improving women’s income to break household poverty and inequality.

Lastly, a collective stakeholders’ input is required, it must not be left for government alone. We call on the media to play a critical role in maternal and infant protection advocacy. For us, reducing maternal and infant mortality gaps as a core goal of SDGs 3 is nothing short of saving pregnant women from avoidable death and making our infants stay alive.

Olamilekan writes from Abuja
via [email protected],

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