• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Infant mortality: Nigeria second on global list of newborn deaths


During the past two decades, Nigeria has made less progress in reducing deaths rates among newborns. While the country has made significant progress in reducing under-5 mortality since 1990 (declining at 42 percent as against newborn morality rate which fell by 23 percent), a recent report released last week ranked Nigeria second after India out of the 186 countries with the highest first day deaths of babies in the world.

The report by Save the Children International titled “State of the World’s Mothers 2013: Surviving the First Day” ranked Nigeria 169 on the Mothers’ Index out of the 186 countries assessed in key areas such as mother’s health, education and economic status, as well as critical child indicators of health and nutrition.

Data from the report revealed that India has the highest number of first-day deaths with 309,300 (29 percent), followed by Nigeria with 89,700 (9 percent), Pakistan, 59,800 (6 percent), China 50,600 (5 percent), Republic of Congo 48,400 (5 percent), Ethiopia 28,800 (3 percent); Bangladesh 28,100 (3 percent), Indonesia 23,400 (2 percent), Afghanistan 18,000 (2 percent) and Tanzania 17,000 (2percent).

Speaking with BusinessDay, Susan Grant, country manager, Save the Children International, said that “helping babies survive the first day and first week as well as the first month of life represented the last great challenge if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015 which is less than two years away.”

Grant regretted that Nigeria had one of the highest numbers of maternal and newborn deaths with 40,000 women dying annually during pregnancy and childbirth and over 250,000 babies dying in their first month of life.

“Most of these deaths are preventable. The time is now for all of us to invest in newborns. The report outlines key interventions which can prevent newborns and mothers from dying. Some key components are having more skilled midwives, trained health care workers to support mother before and after delivery, clean cord care to prevent infection and exclusive breast feeding are low cost interventions which would save thousands of mothers and babies lives,” Grant explained.

Lending his view, Jide Idris, commissioner for Health, Lagos state explained that many mothers and newborns in developing countries do not have access to adequate health systems, birth attendants and low cost interventions, which taken together could reduce newborn death rates by up to 75 percent-saving as many as 2 million babies annually during the first 28 days of life.

According to Idris “We know how to train and equip health workers to provide these solutions. We still need to invest in strengthening health systems and demand related barriers to the access and use of health services as well as invest in health workers especially frontline health workers in the country.

“Nigeria with its population is key to reducing the infant mortality in Africa, even a small reduction in the death rates of the newborns can result in thousands of lives being saved. We must do it in Nigeria first, to set examples for others in Africa.”

The Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) Strategy is an intervention package that addresses six conditions responsible for more than 90 percent of each of the deaths of women, newborns and children under the age of 5 years, including underlying malnutrition.

With primary healthcare level being the first point of contact for people seeking healthcare, in line with IMNCH strategy and the Minimum Ward Health Care Package (MWHCP), Nigeria will need to make an annual investment of N953 (US$7.57) per person in addition to what is currently spent on health to achieve the IMNCH strategy, according to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA Nigeria) report

The report stated that the cost will be about N402 per head annually at the early phase with the cost to gradually increase to N1,496 by 2015 with the money so invested to cater for additional inputs, including human resources, drugs, commodities, equipment, infrastructure etc.

With at least 70 percent of Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care—such as removal of retained placenta, which is a common cause of bleeding and death after delivery, and resuscitation of newborn babies, , low healthcare spend per head and inadequacy of existing health insurance scheme as captured in BusinessDay Research report, “Innovative Healthcare Financing: Challenges and Opportunities” is the bigger challenge.

The report shows that Nigeria healthcare spend per head is put at $67, according to 2012 World Health Statistics Report. South Africa spends seven times more on healthcare per head while Angola spends more than three times more.

To meet the WHO target, Nigeria’s annual health expenditure in 2013 should be N1.13 trillion, instead the budgeted N279 billion. This is about 23 percent of Nigeria’s 2013 budget proposal. This creates a healthcare financing gap of N852 billion in the 2013 budget at the federal level.

BusinessDay, Paul Orhii, director general, National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said that Agency was pushing for a review of the law (Decree No. 15 of 1993) which set up NAFDAC to make the punishment life imprisonment as it is done in India including confiscation of assets of the culprits.

According to Orhii, “I would have wanted death penalty for fake drug dealers. Unfortunately, I had to come to terms with civil rights activists who believe that death penalty is no longer fashionable globally. Like it is done in India, we should sentence these people for life and confiscate their assets because we know that at the heart of counterfeiting lies the incentive to make huge profits.

“We want to take the incentive out by saying that if