EACH YEAR, women and children, unarguably the
most vulnerable in the society continue to die in their
millions from easily preventable diseases. To many of
them, life from birth to death is agonisingly painful,
drab, and empty, and oftentimes cut short by extreme
poverty and diseases. And for this group, particularly
for those living in the rural areas, it is hell on earth
and dying sometimes provides a huge relief from this
hellish existence.
According to statistics,no fewer than 800women die
every day due to complications occasion from pregnancy
and child birth. Of the 800 daily maternal deaths, 500
occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and 190 in Southern
Asia, compared to 6 in the developed countries. Over
the years this number continue to decreased at least
by 45percent from an estimated 523 000 in 1990 to 289
000 in 2013. The progress is though noteworthy, but
the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is
needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs) target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio
by 75percent between 1990 and 2015, which would
require an annual decline of 5.5percent.
This state of hopelessness and the pitiable conditions
women and children in Nigeria and Africa daily go
through became worse as a result of gross neglect by
the government and the larger society. The lifetime
risk of maternal deaths in Africa is estimated at 1:16,for
Asia it is 1:1000,Latin America is 1:1600,Europe 1:2400
and North America is at 1:3500.While the situation for
the children are just as bad as that of the women. Infant
mortality rate, IMR, has increased and the mortality
rate for children under the age of 5 is on the increase.
This is the sorry state of health, women and children
in Nigeria and Africa find themselves, though the
condition of the men are not significantly better.
However, the overwhelming percentage of the
population, irrespective of gender or age face the daily
trauma of abject poverty, hunger and diseases as well as
other forms of deprivations. But painfully, women and
children are the most vulnerable by virtue of their sex
and age, and that is why they deserve special attention.
Today, the blame for the sorry state of women and
children is definitely on the poor state of Nigeria’s
health system. For example, the Federal ministry of
Health report concerning primary Health Care, PHC,
services, says only 48.8percent of PHC facilities in the
country provide antenatal care services, 42.9percent
give delivery services and only 43.9percent provide
postnatal care. Therefore, to meet the health services
for the people and more efficiently, the World
Health, WHO, recommendation of at least 5percent
of the national budget should be strictly adhere to
by government for the health sector. In Nigeria, it is
far below the WHO minimum recommendation. This
probably account for our inability to successfully
tackle the various health problems plaguing us, even
those easily treatable.
The African Regional Reproductive Health Task Force
Roadmap, whose aim is to achieve the MDGs target
of reducing maternal mortality rate by three-quarters
by 2015, remains a huge task yet to be accomplished
as growing poverty, especially among women and
children, lack of access to and availability of skilled
care during pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate
post natal period, poorly functioning health systems
with a weak referral system and harmful socio-cultural
beliefs and practices etc, are visible hindrances.
These are the obstacles daily being encountered, but
difficult as they maybe, they are not insurmountable, it is
only a question of prioritising needs and the importance
attached to the womenfolk and children by the society
and nation at large. Therefore, we must be seen to be rearranging
our priorities to meet these urgent needs.
Above all, Government should increase its allocation
to the health sector and help to reduce leaks in its
expenditure because a situation where less than onefifth
of its paltry budget for health goes for capital
expenditure is unacceptable. The health budget should
therefore be increased so that monies are available for
the provision of better maternal services, check and
fight children’s diseases, as well as stepping up health
awareness campaigns, training more health workers to
meet the expanding health needs of not just women
and children, but the society as a whole and improve
on our preventive capacity and capability.
Finally, women and children are society’s most
valued assets. They represent its conscience, promise,
innocence and above all, life. We must therefore make
sure that such precious lives are not devalued or wasted
through needless neglect of their health issues