Addressing maternal mortality in Nigeria
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria accounts for over 34 percent of global maternal deaths. The lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, or after an abortion for a Nigerian woman is 1 in 22, compared to 1 in 4900 in developed countries. Preventing maternal mortality and improving the maternal health of Nigerian women needs a multifaceted undertaking. The combined efforts can be accomplished through the collective efforts of health care providers, members of society, and the government as a whole.
Nigeria has made little effort in saving the lives of pregnant women and babies from preventable deaths during delivery. Maternal and infant mortality rates are more significant in the Northern states than in other parts. The alarming rate is exemplified by the northeastern region’s high maternal death rate, three times higher than the national average. The inability to obtain high-quality health care in most Nigerian health facilities contributes significantly to this high maternal mortality rate. Most Nigerian health care facilities, especially the primary healthcare centers, where women access maternal care, require an increased influx of healthcare providers. Healthcare professionals prefer to work in high-paying urban and private centers because of the high-quality working conditions. The concentration in these high-paying centers leads to fewer available health providers in the primary health care centers. Improving the working conditions and incentives can serve as an attraction to these centers. Also, efforts need to be made on the part of the government to secure high-level equipment for these centers.
The Nigerian government must realize that improving the quality of health services entails more than just looking at the supply side of things. According to a report by the National Library of Medicine, even if the quality of services in Nigeria’s primary, secondary, and tertiary health facilities improves, maternal mortality may remain high.
Patients’ experiences and perceptions of excellent care, in addition to the quality of services given by a health facility, influence utilisation. The perception could be one of the reasons for Nigeria’s low antenatal care (ANC) coverage. The disparity between the number of women showing up for ANC and those giving birth in a health facility shows the likely dissatisfaction women get.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for maternal and newborn health (MNH) in Nigeria by 2030, the number of maternal fatalities must decrease by more than 90 to less than 3000 per year. Maternal mortality reduction is a central theme under SDG 3.
One step that could be made to reduce maternal mortality is to promote health education. However, determining the educational level is vital. Knowing the educational level of the target population is critical when designing actions to give knowledge and raise awareness about a particular issue. Women with higher levels of education are more likely to seek preventive treatment, which contributes to a significant reduction in maternal mortality. As a result, education is a social determinant of health that can help people improve their health. The higher the population’s educational level, the greater the need for social and health rights that provide everyone with equal possibilities. The government needs to improve women’s access to education. Community campaigns involving collaborations with appropriate community stakeholders would go a long way toward addressing this. One of the goals of these efforts would be to educate people about the fallacy of conventional and cultural notions that women do not require education. In addition, suitable policies addressing harmful behaviors such as child marriage must be developed.
The causes of maternal mortality are not evenly distributed, and this discrepancy is due to social determinants of health and health system shortcomings. As a result, the risk of maternal death is higher in socially deprived communities because these women are more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy than women with financial and social resources. Education, income, and occupation are all intertwined and influence access to assets and social opportunities. As a result, they play a critical role in maternal mortality reduction.
Reducing maternal mortality is crucial for the long-term viability of the human race. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that women in the country are protected. Therefore, there is a need to support and implement well-established public health initiatives for maternal health and death prevention.
• Aderinto is a writing fellow at African Liberty.