Medical researcher canvasses adequate funding of maternal health


A medical researcher, Dr Bamidele Iwalokun, on Friday advised the Federal Government to increase funding for maternal and child health for better outcomes.

Iwalokun gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

He said that the benefits associated with increased health expenditure, monitoring and evaluation of health spending for accountability were much.

According to him, the government should have a zero tolerance to corruption in the health sector.

Iwalokun, who works with the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, said that Nigeria accounted for 10 per cent of the global maternal deaths.

“This means that every day, about 83 Nigerian women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth.

“By Dec. 31 this year, about 30,300 Nigerian women would have died from pregnancy and child birth,’’ he said.

He said that between 2003 and 2013, the maternal mortality ratio had only been reduced from 740 per 100,000 live births to 560 per 100,000 live births.

This, he noted, translated to a decline of about 24.3 per cent and about 2.4 per cent yearly.

Iwalokun said that Nigeria’s health system was now faced with the responsibility of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.

He added that it required a global reduction of maternal mortality ratio to 70 per 100,000 per live births.

“Currently, the seven major causes of maternal deaths in Nigeria in decreasing order of significance are severe bleeding after child birth (this is what clinicians called hemorrhage and infection after child birth.

“Others include high blood pressure during pregnancy (called pre-eclampsia) and convulsion (called eclampsia), complications during delivery, unsafe abortion, malaria and AIDS during pregnancy.

“There is a huge disparity in maternal deaths in Nigeria; the figures are higher in northern Nigeria than southern Nigeria and higher in south-eastern Nigeria than south-west

“It is also higher in humanitarian setting (like Boko Haram states), in rural areas than urban areas and in slums/ghettos than in organised settlements.

“During adolescence from about 15 years, pre-conception care should be sought and early pregnancy should be avoided as most pregnancies at this stage of life is unintended or unplanned,’’ he said.

Iwalokun said the unmet needs of women in Nigeria is about 18.9 per cent, meaning that 18.9 per cent of Nigerian women who do not want to be pregnant do not also have access to family planning services.

“The level of contraceptive use in the country is put at 14.1per cent which is unacceptably low.

“Charity begins at home and it is the responsibility of parents, especially mothers to educate their adolescent girls about the dangers of early pregnancy and unsafe pre-marital sex.

During pregnancy, every Nigerian woman should make a minimum of four antenatal care (ANC) visits to a nearest health facility to have a healthy pregnancy experience and safe delivery,’’ he said.

The medical researcher said that through ANC, a pregnant woman had the opportunity to receive full doses of tetanus vaccine.

“She will also get Intermittent Preventive Therapy against malaria in pregnancy (IPTp), appropriate tests and nutritional and health counseling against HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and quality monitoring of foetal health.

On antenatal visits, Iwalokun said that currently, less than 80 per cent of Nigerian women had four antenatal visits.

He advised every Nigerian woman to have her child delivery attended by skilled health workers, comprising of a midwife, clinician and trained nurse.

“These categories of health workers cannot be found at the Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) places where majority of Nigerian women presently deliver their babies.

“No TBA practitioner in Nigeria can manage the seven major causes of maternal deaths plaguing Nigeria and causing premature deaths of our women.

“After child birth, every Nigerian woman needs to go for post delivery care in the first three months of motherhood where additional opportunity of receiving appropriate vaccination is provided for the newborn child.

“This will help in improving the immunisation coverage of Nigerian children against preventable diseases in the first nine months of life,’’ he said.

Iwalokun said that the government had a lot to do to improve the maternal health indices.

“They need to implement a compliance policy that will ensure that our reproductive maternal and newborn and childhood health programmes are integrated and linked.

“Our primary healthcare centres should have a minimum health package for providing quality care services in continuum across these programmes,’’ he said.

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