Olusegun Mimiko, the immediate past Governor of Ondo State has advocated for free healthcare services to all pregnant women in Nigeria to reduce the rate of maternal mortality.
Mimiko, who made the call in Ilorin while delivering a paper at the Seventh Kola Olafimihan College of Health Sciences Endowed Lecture of the University of Ilorin, posited that maternal and child health care are cost-effective interventions and have been recognised by United Nations, World Health Organisation (WHO) and in Nigeria policy papers as the desired entry point to Universal Health Coverage.
He, however, suggests that sustainable strategies to reduce maternal mortality would include policy targeting of maternal care, increased public health funding, elimination of financial barrier, health system strengthening and sustained political will.
“A society that did not recognise the vulnerability of a pregnant woman and does not embrace any ameliorative process is guilty of some form of violence against women” said Mimiko in his paper presented- entitled: “Sustainable Strategies to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Nigeria: My Experience”.
Mimiko said training local birth attendants will not save maternal lives in the country, noting that traditional birth attendants should only refer pregnant women to public facilities but not to handle birth deliveries.
The former Governor, who is a medical practitioner, pointed out that local birth attendants have no business in obstetrics, as he even reveals that the 2012 confidential enquiry into maternal deaths in Ondo State (CEMDOS) report showed that over 90 per cent of maternal deaths were linked to mismanagement or delayed referrals by unskilled faith-based or traditional birth attendants.
Mimiko said that maternal mortality which had been on the decline globally, had been on the rise in Nigeria from 545 per 100,000 live births in 2008 to 575 in 2014 (NDHS).
“WHO figure of 814 in 2015, an increase of 30 per cent over the 2010 figure of 630 even seems worse. As a matter of fact, we have graduated from being No 2 globally to have the largest number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes in 2015 -overtaking India,” said the former governor
Also speaking at the occasion, Kayode Alabi, Kwara deputy Governor says maternal death rate in Nigeria may be worst than we thought as every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 children under the age of five and 145 women of childbearing age.
“The statistic is disturbing because Nigeria is the second-largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world accounting for 14 percent of the world’s maternal mortality deaths, which is the highest in West and Central Africa,” he said.
Alabi says infant mortality is a critical indicator of global development and decreasing, its severity has been a challenge in low-income countries for decades despite the presence of effective interventions.
“Poverty contributes to the dastardly statistics, adding that many especially those in the rural areas due to low income and limited resources hardly have access to quality prenatal and postnatal.
“The report by World Health Organisation has showed that 40 percent of women in low income countries visit antenatal care units,” he said.
Earlier in his welcoming address, Sulyman Abdulkareem, professor of chemical engineering and vice-chancellor, University of Ilorin explained that maternal mortality is a big problem that sees confounding medical experts and practitioners in Nigeria and beyond.
He says 20 percent of all global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria and that maternal mortality in Nigeria was over 800 per 100,000 births, with every Nigerian woman having one in 22-lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum.
SIKIRAT SHEHU, Ilorin