In a recent United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF’s report, it was revealed that every single day, Nigeria loses about 2300 under five-year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world. Also UNICEF says that deaths of newborn babies in Nigeria represent a quarter of the total number of deaths of children under-five majority of these occur within the first week of life, mainly due to complications during pregnancy and delivery reflecting the intimate link between newborn survival and the quality of maternal care. Main causes of neonatal deaths are birth asphyxia severe infection including tetanus and premature birth.
Sadly, many statistics have also revealed the pain of human tragedy, for thousands families have lost their children. Even more devastating is the knowledge that according to recent research, essential interventions reaching women and babies on time would have averted most of these deaths. With this high rate of maternal mortality rate, one would wonder what has the relevant agencies done to reduce this to a minimal, but still in the UNICEF report said that although analyses of recent trends show that country is making progress in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, the pace still remains too slow. Information also gathered that preventable or treatable infectious disease such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 per cent of the estimated one million under-five
deaths in Nigeria. It was disclosed that malnutrition is the underlying cause of morbidity and mortality of a large proportion of children under-five in Nigeria. This actually accounts for more than 50 percent of deaths of children in this age bracket. According to UNICEF, a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is one in 13, noting that although many of these deaths are preventable, the coverage and quality of health care services in the country continue to fail women and children. It said that presently, less than 20 percent of health facilities offer emergency obstetric care and only 35 percent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants. This shows the close relationship between the well being of the mother and the child, and justifies the need to
integrate maternal, newborn and child health interventions. It is worthy to note that wide regional disparities exist in child health indicators with the NorthEast and North-West geopolitical zones of the country having the worst child survival figures. Meanwhile, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, said that Nigeria constitutes 2 percent of the world’ population but contributes 10 percent of the world’s maternal mortality. “The UNFPA in partnership with the DFID is proposing a programme that will ultimately reduce maternal mortality in Nigeria by 30% through a child spacing and family planning initiative,” he said He said that any well developed initiative, if well implemented would help reduce the rates of maternal
mortality rates in Nigeria. The Permanent Secretary, DFID, Mr. Mark Lowcock acknowledged the challenge posed by maternal and child health, stating that it was more of a development issue than a health challenge. Lowcock said DFID was already financing a programme that supports six million couples every year on family planning. Interestingly, the efforts of UNFPA, DFID are a welcomed development which would go a long way in reducing the rates if well supported by other relevant organisations, individuals, and governments of all levels. There should be easy assessment of health facilities by these vulnerable groups in the society- women and children and essential interventions should as well reach them on time in order to avert most of the deaths.