Like most people who experience grief when they mourn their loved ones, Johnson Harrison (not real names), a 39-year-old father of four, folded his hands across his chest and gazed with teary-eyes at his wife’s grave monument on the side of the house.
The widower lost his wife following pregnancy-related complications; he is not alone in the traumatic experience preventable deaths have brought upon many families in Nigeria and globally.
He is one of those families who reside in rural communities where there is a conspicuous gap between expectant mothers and healthcare.
Such death would have been prevented if she had access to quality health services and affordable interventions.
“The deaths could have been averted but we lost her. She would have been alive today if we were able to get blood and medical care on time. Losing her is devastating and one of the worst memories I can never forget for the rest of my life,” he said.
Each year, many women die needlessly from some of the major pregnancy-related complications such as severe bleeding after childbirth, infections after childbirth, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Bleeding especially after delivery is one of the major killers of women. Therefore, if our health systems can provide good surgeries, readily available drugs and adequate blood banking services, then maternal mortality do not need to take place, says Ehigha Enabudoso, consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
One of the global targets for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.
Despite significant efforts made to reduce the numbers of deaths per live births, the fate and possibility of Nigeria to achieve the set target continues to hang in the balance.
The consultant explained that maternal mortality can be reduced through a multi-pronged approach which includes revamping the health system, better socioeconomic status, and motivation for health workers as well as addressing healthcare finance to reduce the incidence of out-of-pocket payment for health services.
“The issue of maternal mortality is multifaceted. There is no magic bullet for it and there are a lot of issues that need to be raised. And one of it is obviously the top which is the health system.
“The health system has to be improved; there need to be a concerted approach to make sure there is a degree of universal health coverage, and also the primary health center needs to be strengthened.
According to Enabudoso, it is not just the health system; there are other things to be done if we can also work on our socioeconomic factors like women empowerment and education. Once there is an improvement in the socioeconomic status, by implication they will be better educated, and have means of funding for themselves.
“Another thing that also kills our women is the fact that almost every form of healthcare in Nigeria requires out-of-pocket payment. Once there is out-of-pocket payment, a lot of people will not be able to access healthcare, and it is because of that our women still go to quacks for delivery, and when they have complications they are rushed to the hospitals almost dead,” he said.
Speaking further, the physician expressed worry over contraceptive usage, noting that when family planning is taken seriously, “it will take a large toll out of the present abysmal figures we have on maternal mortality.
“Our contraceptive usage is still quite low; between 15 to 30 per cent of Nigerian women use adequate contraception, and that itself creates a lot of problem because a lot of these issues result to unplanned pregnancies. It is not only the abortive process itself, but when a woman has not planned a pregnancy; she is not bodily and financially ready for it. And if you are not ready, then the aftermath will come up,” he added.
With Coronavirus (COVID-19) ravaging countries, disrupting livelihoods, and further creating huge gap between the people and healthcare, Nigeria risks becoming among top countries confronted with maternal mortality by the end of the decade if urgent action is not taken against the complications and reduce its impact.