To combat high infant mortality rate
It is a shame of immense proportions that worsening infant mortality rate is the new signature of Nigeria as a new United Nations report indicates that Nigeria and four other countries account for half of all newborn deaths in the world. This damning report should alarm all patriots and also serve as a wake-up call on policy makers to increase their efforts towards universal access to better reproductive health services for women.
Obviously, a lot of pregnant mothers still can’t access good antenatal care. Many resort to quack doctors or unorthodox traditional care while others do virtually nothing about their pregnancy. Such lack of proper care impacts not only the mothers but also the newborns.
The magnitude of the problem shows that efforts made so far by governments across the federation are inadequate. As a matter of fact, it is an indictment on the country’s primary healthcare programme. That both mother and child are still dying from pregnancy complications is disturbing and unacceptable.
According to the report titled, Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017, most newborn deaths occurred in two regions namely Southern Asia (39 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent). Five countries accounted for half of all newborn deaths: India (24 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), DR Congo (4 per cent), and Ethiopia (3 per cent).
The report was jointly released by the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), which make up the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME).
Available data shows that every day, in 2016, 15,000 children died before their fifth birthday, 46 per cent of them or 7000 babies, died in the first 28 days of life.
Going by this trend, it is estimated that 60 million children will die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, of which half will be newborns.
The report further revealed that, although, the number of children dying before the age of five is at a new low, compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000, the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period has increased from 41 per cent during the same period.
It adds that many lives can be saved if global inequities are reduced. Thus, if every country could achieve the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 per cent of under-five deaths would be averted and almost five million lives could have been saved in 2016.
Not too long ago, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Soumi Sakai, said that one Nigerian woman dies every 10 minutes due to pregnancy complications and childbirth, and over 500 newborns die daily. Then Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Salamatu Suleiman said that one in every nine maternal deaths worldwide occurs in Nigeria. These figures are scary and need to be addressed urgently.
A number of factors are responsible for this ugly state of affairs. These include poor environment, poor education, and lack of access to primary healthcare coupled with poor funding. Consequently, some basic practical and procedural issues need to be addressed through advocacy and education.
For instance, pregnant mothers need to be monitored from conception to the expected delivery date. The blood should be checked regularly along with efforts at malaria prevention. Many pregnant mothers are afflicted with malaria, which poses danger to both the mother and child. Also, there should be proper nutrition for the mother to ensure strength and healthy development of the baby.
Over and above all that is the need for well-equipped medical facilities with qualified doctors and nurses. Poor healthcare facilities is a problem across the country and the ratio of qualified doctors to patients is embarrassingly low.
The attitude of the doctors and nurses is also a problem. Quite often, medical personnel don’t show enough commitment to their job. Reports of doctors/nurses abandoning women in labour for whatever reason abound and such ill-treated mothers are exposed to unnecessary risks. Frequent strikes by medical personnel also compound the problem.
Pregnant mothers should be enlightened on the need to undergo periodic scan to know the condition of their baby in the womb as some babies are born with jaundice that could pose risk if untreated promptly.
A lot has been said about the detestable state of healthcare delivery in the country. Doctors and other medical personnel have gone on strikes over the matter to no avail. Unfortunately, government and its agencies keep paying lip service to the issue.
It is regrettable that quite often, the reports issued by multilateral agencies about the poor state of healthcare in the country are dismissed with the wave of the hand by those who should act on them.
Many times, carelessness is responsible for the death of either the mother or the child or both. Whatever the case, Nigeria needs to act to rid herself of the unnecessary menace of infant mortality.
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