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Health Officials Criticize High Child Mortality Rate in Nigeria

The Nigerian Academy of Science has asked the Nigerian government to reduce the cost of pre-natal care and child delivery in all its hospitals, especially in rural areas, to help curb the high level of child mortality. Medical officials say about 200 of every one thousand children born each year in Nigeria die before the age of five. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Jacqueline Ogoh in Lagos tells us some of the factors behind child mortality in Nigeria.

Research by UNICEF reveals that over 834,000 children die annually in Nigeria. The problem is attributed to poverty, obstetric emergencies, harmful cultural practices, and a lack of pre-natal care and access to family planning. Health facilities are often poorly funded, and many traditional birth attendants have no medical training.

Only India, with one million children lost each year, has a higher number of child deaths.

Dr. Francis Taiwo is the coordinator of the Canada-based NGO, The Micronutrient Initiative. Dr. Talwo says another cause of infant mortality in Nigeria is the malnutrition of mother and child. He says although poverty is a factor, the government needs to do more to tell mothers about the importance of good nutrition.

He says, “If you take care of the nutrition of the child, definitely, you will take care of the issue of the child surviving other diseases the child is bedeviled with. The pregnancy outcome is dependent on the nutrition of the mother and other healthcare the mother would have to receive. That’s why a woman must [be careful to eat] very well, take iron supplements. All is to bring about a baby that is living and a mother that is living as well.”

The Nigerian Academy of Science describes infant mortality as the rapid destruction of the country’s future. It says among other issues, the government must address poverty and harmful traditional practices like the use of local or traditional midwives who lack medical training.

The executive director of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Dr. Akin Adubifa, says an international workshop is to set up a study of other African countries with smaller child mortality rates and brainstorm on how Nigeria might adopt their solutions for reducing death rates.

He says, “Some pregnant mothers don’t have appropriate information on treatment. Something needs to be done to popularize science and human welfare, because too many of our people in local remote areas believe in superstition. They believe in local practices that may not be helpful…and sometimes they are even harmful to the delivery of real scientific medicine.”

A program officer with the Nigerian Academy of Science, Dr. Bolaji Obadeyi, says improved funding of Nigeria’s healthcare, with a focus on upgrading medical facilities in the rural areas, could help restore the people’s confidence in modern medicine.

She says, “In the rural areas, because of the problem we’ve had with funding our healthcare system, [we’ve lost] the trust that was there before. If you go to a facility and there is no nurse, and the following day there is still no nurse, then you will try a herbalist or a traditional practitioner. People tend to turn to where they can get healthcare intervention quickly.”

However, Dr. Obadeyi says the Nigerian government could improve infrastructural facilities in the rural areas. She says that would discourage skilled medical personnel from rejecting assignment to such areas. Critics say some mothers take their children to government hospitals, only to be told there are no drugs. They say the government should provide more hospitals, and ensure that they are well stocked with the proper medications.