News / Africa

Nigeria Tackles Maternal Mortality

New midwives prepare for their assignments. (VOA / S. Elijah)New midwives prepare for their assignments. (VOA / S. Elijah)
New midwives prepare for their assignments. (VOA / S. Elijah)
New midwives prepare for their assignments. (VOA / S. Elijah)
For many women in Nigeria, a country with one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, the prospect of giving birth can be scary.
According to the U.N. children’s organization, UNICEF, more than 150 women die every day in pregnancy-related cases in Nigeria, an average of one death every 10 minutes.
It’s no wonder many pregnant women worry about coming out of the hospital or clinic alive.
“I asked my family members to embark on prayers for me,” says Eldina Istifanus, a mother of two. “I am sure that is why I am alive today.
“I almost died of childbirth complications during my first delivery,” she says. “I was afraid during my second delivery. I remembered my first experience and the experience of my friends who died in the process.”
Despite her fears, Istifanus counts herself lucky because she was in a private clinic.
“The situation is very bad in public hospitals,” she says. “The workers are not motivated and emergency services are almost absent. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had gone there.”
Even though Nigeria’s maternal mortality statistics are among the world’s worst, doctors say the situation may be more dire than numbers indicate. Because the country has no standardized recordkeeping practices in rural communities and settlements — places where women rarely visit a hospital or clinic for pre-natal care or delivery — many pregnancy-related deaths, doctors say, are preventable.
What’s worse: While many of Nigeria’s public hospitals are ill-equipped and under-staffed, rural areas have few health facilities to speak of.
Possible national solutions
Pregnant women receiving health talks in Kaduna, Nigeria. (VOA / S. Elijah)Pregnant women receiving health talks in Kaduna, Nigeria. (VOA / S. Elijah)
Pregnant women receiving health talks in Kaduna, Nigeria. (VOA / S. Elijah)
Pregnant women receiving health talks in Kaduna, Nigeria. (VOA / S. Elijah)
Some say the ability to save lives is simply a matter of government agencies making it a top priority.
According to Dr. Ado Muhammad, executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria is working hard to address the problem.
Officials in Abuja, he says, have just hired an additional 6,000 midwives and health workers to curb the nation’s maternal death rate under the Midwives Service Scheme.
“Under the scheme, newly qualified, unemployed and retired midwives are engaged and sent to undertake one or two years [of] community service in selected rural communities,” he said, explaining that the new hires will join 4,000 others already serving rural areas.
“The lives of about 1.2 million expectant women — or nine million people — would be saved under the scheme by 2015,” he said.
The government is also working to pay pregnant women the equivalent of about $35 for at least four pre-natal health checkups, plus childcare support services.
“Our goal is to make pregnancy safer,” he said.
Two weeks ago President Goodluck Jonathan launched a program called ‘Saving One Million Lives’ to ensure sustainable and equitable access and use of 13 lifesaving commodities to women and children by 2015.
The program is part of U.N. Secretary-General’s Global Strategy to save 16 million lives by 2015 through increasing access to essential medicines that will address avoidable causes of death during pregnancy, childbirth and childhood. 
Jonathan said his “administration has set aside $500 million for procurement of reproductive health commodities over the next four years.”
The 13 commodities include misoprostol for addressing post-partum haemorrhage and injectable antibiotics for newborn sepsis.
State government interventions
A number of Nigeria's state governments are opening primary health-care clinics and offering free medical services to pregnant women and children under the age of five.
In Kaduna state, Health Commissioner Turaki Khalid says the program has increased demand for health care.
“More than five million pregnant women and children below the age of five years have benefitted from the program introduced in 2007,” he said.
But Dorcas Adeyemi, an activist for maternal health care, says the state government needs to get new laws passed.
“Most of these state governments are running this program without the required laws to back them up,” Adeyemi said. “They should be more committed by enacting laws that support it.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a project called the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) that is working with the Nigerian government to reduce maternal deaths.
Kabir Abdullahi, leader of the Gates project in Kaduna state, says even helping women space out their births through enlightenment and provision of family planning services can reduce maternal deaths by as much as 30 percent.
“We are encouraging state governments in Nigeria to create budget lines for family planning commodities and services to reduce the country’s high maternal and child deaths,” Abdullahi said.
Current efforts indicate that Nigeria is making progress in reducing its maternal mortality rates, but the pace is too slow for the country to attain the Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal mortality by a third by 2015.

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Life for African Mothers from: Cardiff Wales
November 02, 2012 9:00 AM
We are so pleased to hear about countries in West Africa improving maternal health access and valuing the women in their societies more. Maternal mortality has greatly improved in Sierra Leone with the introduction of free healthcare for pregnant women

by: Charity from: Abuja
October 30, 2012 5:34 AM
The recent commitment of the federal government is very commendable. The states and local governments should further ensure that quality services actually reach the poor in the communities, where most of the maternal deaths occur. They must employ more midwives for the public facilities. The fact is that most Nigerian women need the public facilities to give them the much desired services. The situation, as it is now, is beyond rhetorics. States and local government chief executives must act to save more lives in the communities. Investment in maternal health and family planning is a major step for Nigeria’s development.

by: littleyan from: china
October 29, 2012 8:58 AM
may this would help

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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs