For The Love Of Mothers At Childbirth

Now living with his uncle, Debo Adebanjo, who is also shouldering the responsibility of looking after his elder sister children who also died recently, Bidemi still feels empty and rues the demise of her mother who died at the age of 26, due to complications resulting from childbirth.

Her guardian, Adebanjo, told The Guardian that before Bidemi mother’s death two months after the ill-fated delivery, she had complained of pains in her womb. “She didn’t die immediately after giving birth, her death occurred two months after. For the cause of her death, it is only God that has the final answer, though she complained that she was experiencing pain in her womb after giving birth.

“From our consultation and investigation, we were told it was because the baby did not survive that she also died. She had the baby, it was not a stillbirth. But unfortunately, the baby died in the hospital.” Resigning to fate, Adebanjo is not ascribing the cause of death to the slipshod handling of the doctors at the private hospital. Bidemi’s mother is just another addition to the scary UNICEF indices, which says Nigeria’s infant mortality rate is 97 deaths in a thousand births.

Located across Adebanjo’s residence on the other side of the road at Owode Ilaje is another victim of childbirth mortality. The survivor is a 53-year old food vendor, Mrs. Adijat Ganiyu. She lost her first daughter, Kafayat Muri on January 3, 2008. The dawn of a new year is a sad reminder of the terrible loss of her 25-year old who endured two days of labour but eventually lost her life in the effort to give birth to a new life.

Recounting her ordeal, Ganiyu said, “we went to Life Guard Hospital on New Year’s Day and she died on the 3rd. She was complaining of pains and we took her to the hospital on the 1st. The doctor examined her and told us it would be the following day before she would give birth. So, we stayed with her till the next day when she was taken to the labour room. The doctor works in a general hospital, so we felt there was no problem.

“Not long after my daughter was wheeled to the labour room, the doctor said he was going to work and before he comes back, she would have delivered. Not long after he left, the nurses came to me and said we should deliver N10,000. I asked for what, because I didn’t owe them any money. When the doctor came back in the afternoon, he asked if we had paid the money, I said no.

“He said from the state of things, my daughter would be taken to the theatre because the baby had defecated in the womb and she was bleeding internally. In addition, we would need to provide blood. We went to buy the blood and when we came back, we were referred to the general hospital where he was working. By the third day, we were told she had died. She didn’t deliver the baby. She had died before she was operated on to remove the baby, who was also brought out dead.”

Asked if the death resulted from the doctor’s culpability, she said, “we trusted his competence because he was a doctor at the general hospital and had taken delivery of many births in the neighbourhood. In fact, she had always been going for her antenatal at the clinic and the doctor never for once told us there was any complication with the pregnancy. But like they say, life is in the hands of God and there is nothing we can do to bring her back.”

Maternal mortality is a huge problem in many developing countries and Nigeria is not an exception. Approximately, there are about 54,000 deaths every year – only a bit less than 10 per cent of all maternal mortality cases in the world. And one of the sad statistics is the poor reproductive healthcare. Only about 60 per cent of women have access to the prenatal care in Nigeria and even fewer have access to family planning. A visit to the antenatal care clinic is often the first or only point of contact with healthcare system to some women, as there is a large patronage of Traditional Birth Attendants in the hinterlands.

Long distances to healthcare facilities are one of the reasons for maternal mortality. The connections are bad, it takes time and money to travel to the healthcare facility for a check-up and sometimes, the only vehicle can be a motorcycle. Just like in Owode Ilaje where the deaths were recorded, it took The Guardian close to 30 minutes of bumpy ride to reach the mainland of Ikorodu where the general hospital and Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) is located.

In some locations, if the mother cannot sit on a motorbike, somebody has to first drive to the town to bring a car and then drive the mother to the hospital. This takes a lot of time and may be a reason for not going for antenatal check-ups. In the advent of emergency, it may put both the mother and baby in danger.

As one of the fastest growing settlements in Lagos State, Ikorodu is faced with its developing challenge to infrastructure and healthcare, but the ongoing work of Humanity Family Foundation for Peace and Development (HUFFPED) in the community has brought some respite to the challenge of healthcare. Some of the NGOs intervention had been primarily in the integrated management of childhood illness, universal access to female condoms to prevent unintended pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Illnesses (STI), family planning and the training of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in safe deliveries.

According to the Executive Director of HUFFPED, Henry Adenigba, “we don’t intend to send anybody out of business, what we are trying to do is to train these TBAs on the ethics of safe practice to prevent unwarranted deaths. So that once they notice a slight complication, the case is referred to the hospital or healthcare facility close to them. We are also sensitizing health practitioners to honour any referrals from the TBAs with the urgency it demands.”

Adenigba believes the Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal and child mortality is very much achievable. “All we need is commitment. If there is the enormous government will, it can be achieved. There is the possibility of achieving the MDGs, but not by 2015. That is if all hands are not just on the deck but working.”

One major involvement of HUFFPED in Ikorodu is the promotion of the female condom. The organisation’s slogan is “we can make love without making babies.” Adenigba added, “We are promoting the female condom because it gives women the right to control and negotiate sex. It is also available and affordable.”

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