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Why Nigeria loses about 575 newborn babies daily


An image of a young baby’s legs.<br />Photo: Pixabay

Everyday, Nigeria loses about 575 newborn babies, who are mainly within their first week of life. These deaths represent a quarter of the total 2, 300 under-five deaths that occur daily in the country.

These rising deaths have succeeded in pitching the country, in the 11th position on newborn deaths globally, as revealed by a new report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Consequently, the UNICEF is calling for urgent intervention against newborn deaths through access to well trained nurses and midwives.

According to the report, newborn mortality rate for low-income countries such as Nigeria is 29 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although, a recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted by the Federal Government in 2016/17 gives the country’s rate as 37 deaths per 1,000 births. 

A report from the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) indicates that about 5.3 million children are born in Nigeria yearly, which is about 11,000 everyday. Out of these, about one million die annually (or 2,300 daily) before age five. A quarter of these U-5 deaths occur during the first week of the child’s life.

Reacting to this, Country Project Manager, USAID Fistula Project, Chief Iyeme Efem, said delay in receiving emergency obstetric care is responsible for many of these deaths.

According to him: “Many health facilities are not properly equipped to manage emergency situations. Also, there are no appropriate staff required to manage women in labour. Apart from this, there is the poor health seeking behaviour of the people.  Many people don’t seek care until it’s too late, and when they do, they don’t go to the appropriate places.”

Efem explained that there are three delays responsible for lack of prompt access to healthcare. “The first delay happens at home when the woman delays in taking the decision to seek medicare. The second delay happens in transit either due to lack of good road network or transportation. The third delay happens at the hospital- the time it takes to get the health care professional to arrive and attend to the woman in labour. The third delay bothers on availability of skilled health professionals,” he said.

Another limitation, he said, is the lack of death audit, which could have helped provide accurate data and insight on the deaths.  “Unfortunately we do not have a death audit in Nigerian hospitals, except at the teaching hospitals. Because we do not have this death audit, we are not able to tell the reason for the deaths. 

“Also, governments are failing in their responsibilities to provide adequate health care for the people. There is need for more funding of the health sector, just as there is the need to reinforce the monitoring of hospitals to ensure that they are rid of quacks,” Efem, added. 

In order to avoid prolonged labour, which has caused many women to have still birth and develop fistula, the country project manager advised women to always attend antenatal care, go to hospital on time during labour, and chose elective Ceaserian section when needed.

In the same vein, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Mamaye Evidence for Action, said infant and neonatal deaths can be prevented when women receive proper maternal care from skilled providers during pregnancy, at the time of delivery and shortly after birth.

Laide Shokunbi, the group’s media advisor, canvassed more support from the Federal Government to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths in the country.

“Our health facilities should be well-equipped and they should also have skilled healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, and midwives,’’ he said.

Also, the Project Director, Development Communications Network (DEVCOMS), Akin Jimoh, said there is need for increased sensitisation on how to achieve good maternal, newborn and child health.

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