Although reports from the United Nations indicate gradual reduction in maternal mortality in Nigeria, some experts still express concerns that the situation is still critical.
According Professor Abiodun Aboyeji, expert on obstetrics and gynecology at the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, an estimated 40,000 women die annually in Nigeria as a result of pregnancy complications.
Delivering a lecture entitled “Pregnancy: The Burden of Womanhood” during the 150th Inaugural Lecture of the University of Ilorin on August 19, 2014, the don stated that, “Nigeria is among the top 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR)”.
The don further said that, “In the South-West region of the country, MMR is 165 per 100,000 live births, while in the North-East it is 1,549 per 100,000 live births. The situation is likely to be worse with the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency that is most prominent in that part of the country”.
The former Minister of Health, Professor Chukwu Onyebuchi has said in several instances that Nigeria has significantly moved upward in the fight against maternal mortality. Other health agencies admitted too that MMR has drastically reduced in Nigeria.
Developing countries accounts for 99 percent of the global maternal deaths, among which is Nigeria. He likened the situation in Nigeria to a “war situation”. About 3,333 die every month, 769 every week, 109 every day while five persons die every hour as a result of the pregnancy related causes.
“How else can we describe a condition that is responsible for the death of 40,000 women every year in Nigeria; 3,333 every month, 769 every week, 109 every day and 5 every hour, leaving between 800,000 to 1,200,000 others with permanent lifelong disabilities?” he lamented.
Enumerating the factors responsible for the high increase of maternal mortality in the country, Prof. Factors said “teenage pregnancy, intrauterine and ectopic pregnancies, abortion complications, obstructed labour, postpartum hemorrhage, vesico-vaginal fistula, VVF, cervical and ovarian cancers, sexually transmitted infections, STIs, and uterine fibroids” are primarily responsible for maternal mortality.
In May 2012, a United Nations’ release endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank, stated that maternal mortality had reduced globally by half in 20 years.
The statement signed by Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund and former director-general of the National Action and Control of Aids, NACA, stated that, “I am very pleased to see that the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth continues to decline. This shows that the enhanced effort of countries, supported by UNFPA and other development partners, is paying off.
“But we can’t stop here. Our work must continue to make every pregnancy wanted and every childbirth safe,” said Dr. Osotimehin.
The report entitled “Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2010”, further went on to state that, from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from above 543,000 to 287,000 representing 47 per cent decline.
Grave concern has also been raised about the unlikelihood of the most African countries’ inability to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target aimed at reducing maternal death by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2015. For example, 36 of the 40 countries with the world’s highest rates of maternal death are in sub-Saharan Africa. Only Eastern Asia was credited with significant progress in the anti-maternal mortality campaign.
According to the report, a woman dies of pregnancy-related complications every two minutes. Experts said it is usually caused by unsafe abortion, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy and severe bleeding after childbirth. Dr. Osotimehin added that, “We know exactly what to do to prevent maternal deaths: improve access to voluntary family planning, invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise. These interventions have proven to save lives and accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal 5”.
To tame this problem, the UN had recommended critical intervention in the maternal medicare sector. “Over a quarter of a million women still die in pregnancy and childbirth each year, and more than 215 million women lack access to modern contraceptives. Meeting the need for voluntary family planning for these women would not only fulfill a human right, it would also reduce the number of maternal deaths by a third. This is a highly cost-effective public health strategy”.
There is also illiteracy factor to this disturbing development. In Ondo State, for instance, not withstanding the fact that the state government made medical services for pregnant women free, several women still stick to the traditional practices by consulting traditionalists. Often, as a result of unhygienic practices of this local system, the lives of mothers and children are put at risk.
There is a relationship between maternal mortality and infant mortality. Interestingly, in May 2013, the UN report entitled “Surviving the First Day” stated that 89,700 babies die at birth in Nigeria the day they are born. Nigeria ranked in that report as the second worst country with high infant mortality rate out of top 10 countries in a global survey country also took 17th position in the world in maternal mortality rate.
The report, which is 14th in series of the Save the Children entitled “Surviving the First Day” compared first-day death rates for 186 countries and found that in most countries, children are at greatest risk on the day they are born.
The report showed the statistics of worst hit countries as follows: 309,300 (29 percent), followed by Pakistan, 59,800 (6 percent), China 50,600 (5 percent), Republic of Congo 48,400 (5 percent), Ethiopia 28,800 (3 percent); Bangladesh 28,100 (3 percent), Indonesia 23,400 (2 percent), Afghanistan 18,000 (2 percent) and Tanzania 17,000 (2percent).
While at various times government’s efforts have been commended, expectations are still high that it will vigorously up the campaign against maternal mortality in the country.

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