News / Africa

    Maternal Deaths of Concern in Nigeria

    Mothers with their newborn babies in a Lagos hospital, (file photo) (AP).Mothers with their newborn babies in a Lagos hospital, (file photo) (AP).
    x
    Mothers with their newborn babies in a Lagos hospital, (file photo) (AP).
    Mothers with their newborn babies in a Lagos hospital, (file photo) (AP).
    Heather Murdock
    ABUJA - Globally, the number of maternal deaths has been cut in half since 1990.  But, in Nigeria 40,000 women die each year because of pregnancy complications.  Aid organizations say poverty, isolation and dangerous traditions are the heart of the problem while some mothers say there are simply no doctors at the hospital.  
     
    A United Nations study indicates that a third of the women who die from childbirth yearly are in two countries: India, the world's second-most populated, and Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.
     
    The report says Nigeria also has the distinction of having one of the world's highest maternal death rates - 630 deaths for every 100,000 live births.
     
    Bukola Danmusa is the mother of three who lives in a rundown neighborhood outside the capital.  She says many women do not go to the hospital because it's too expensive.
     
    "Some people don’t have money to go the hospital to do [pre-natal care] and the results are complications or death when they have their baby," said Danmusa.
     
    She says, even if they go, to a hospital, there is usually no doctor and perhaps a single nurse.
     
    United Nations Children's Fund health specialist Esther Obinya says women in rural areas often do not know the risks of pregnancy and are tended to by traditional birthing assistants who have no medical training.  She says, sometimes when women in isolated villages need to go to the hospital for emergency care during delivery, the quickest available transportation could be on a donkey or a motorcycle or by foot.

    "There are no helicopters to come and fish her out if she is bleeding," said Obinya. "There are no cars to flash out. The places they live in there may just be transport once a week, on market days."
     
    Obinya says, if a woman starts hemorrhaging during childbirth, she has only a couple of hours to be treated before she dies, causing 25 percent of Nigeria's maternal deaths.
     
    She says high maternal death rates are also a result of child marriage and social pressure to have many babies, both common in some parts of Nigeria.  She says many women believe that hospitals are only for problem pregnancies and feel pressure not to burden their husbands with the costs.
     
    Obinya notes that abortion is illegal in Nigeria, with the exception of when the woman's life is in danger. As a result, some girls get illegal abortions from quack doctors who tell patients they are fine and hurry them to the door.

    "On her way home she just collapses so her friends who brought her now rushes her to the hospital, but it is too late. I've seen so many girls die like that," she said.
     
    She says UNICEF and the Nigerian government are conducting massive awareness campaigns and training health care professionals across the country, hoping to cut the maternal death rate in half by 2015.
     
    Hellen Akujohnson, a teacher and mother of four, says health care for pregnant women would also improve if policies already in place were enforced. She says the local government has promised free care for pregnant women and their babies until they are five years old.
     
    However, she says, at most hospitals, care is not free because workers fleece patients for illegal fees.

    "They extort money from women, collect things from them, get money from them [to] buy material things - the hospital workers who collect it from them - whereas it’s supposed to be free," said Akujohnson.
     
    Doctors also say low salaries for medical professionals create a disincentive to work in remote rural areas.  Dr. Habiba Suleiman is a general practitioner with three children.  She says the government should pay doctors enough to convince them to serve where they are needed most.

    "Doctors should have enough salaries that should excite them and make them want to go down to go the rural areas because this is really the primary health care centers where you can catch this patient early enough," said Suleiman.
     
    Early this month, Nigerian officials fired nearly 800 doctors who were on strike against low wages. Suleiman says, in addition to better salaries, Nigeria needs to train more female doctors, because they will pay close attention to the needs of mothers.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora