Health stakeholders and experts in Nigeria have called on the Nigerian government to make maternal care and family planning services free for every woman of reproductive age in order to reduce the high burden of maternal and infant mortality in the country.
Latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that Nigeria accounts for over 34 percent of global maternal deaths while the lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, or after an abortion for a Nigerian woman is one in 22, compared to one in 4900 in developed countries.
Oladapo Ladipo, the President of the Association for Reproductive and Family Health, Oladapo Ladipo, said free maternal health services is possible in the country explaining that government has the financial capacity only if they will prioritise health.
Ladipo said this at a one-day summit organised by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists in Abuja and supported by the Partnership for Advocacy In Child and Family Health at Scale (PACFaH@scale), anchored by the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC).
Ladipo noted that some women cannot access maternal and family planning services due to financial hardship and often face complications during pregnancy that results in their death.
The expert stressed that free maternal care and family planning services an curb the burden drastically. He said, “The Ondo State government during the governor Segun Mimiko administration did it. They were spending about N6,500 on every pregnant mother and the maternal mortality in that state was reduced. So, it is doable, especially looking at the cost of living now.
“Maternal mortality is one of the social injustices of our time. Maternal death is so shameful because we don’t lack the policies, we know what to do, but we are not putting in the right money. Government can afford it, it is not too much to ensure that their health and survival is cared for. Similarly, after delivery, family planning is key, having more than three pregnancies increases one’s chances of dying, so we should educate the public to limit the number of children they have. Family planning services should be free just as immunization.”
He regretted taht health was not a priority for the current administration, and charged the incoming administration to make health among top priority.
According to him, “No real growth without a healthy population, no sustainable development without tackling diseases poverty, malnutrition. Health is a basic human right. The incoming administration should make it a priority, provide adequate funding to ensure improved quality of life.”
Also speaking, Ejike Orji, chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, decried that funding for family planning is epileptic and needs to improve. He warned that this poor funding would result in more abortions, complications, maternal and neonatal deaths, over population among others.
Orji highlighted some funding opportunities to include; annual budgetary allocation, 1 percent from the health budget at all levels, and partnership with the private sector.
In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who was represented by deputy director, Family Planning Logistics, Ugochukwu Alex, acknowledged that family planning is globally recognized as an important strategy/intervention for the prevention of maternal morbidity and mortality.
He tasked health Journalists to support on-going effort of government at positioning family planning as major strategy for accelerating the country’s socioeconomic development with adequate investments to reap appropriate measure of demographic dividend from the current youth bulge.