The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Pauline Tallen, and the wife of Kebbi State Governor, Zainab Bagudu, have advocated innovative solutions to Nigeria’s worsening cases of maternal mortality and childcare challenges.
The duo spoke at the presentation of a book on maternal health and associated challenges in Abuja during the week.
Titled; “Fruit of Pain,” the nine-chapter book is written by a maternal health advocate, Mabel Adinya Ade.
The book details the unending struggle women face before, during and after childbirth, especially in rural Nigeria.
What data says
According to the latest UN global estimates, 303,000 women die annually during childbirth, or as a result of complications arising from pregnancy.
This equates to about 830 women dying each day; roughly one every two minutes.
About two-thirds of all maternal deaths worldwide take place in sub-Saharan Africa with Nigeria and India alone accounting for one-third of global deaths, the statistics say.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, one in seven global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria. That is more than 50,000 women dying per year in the country.
But health experts believe that about 95 per cent of deaths during childbirth are preventable.
Meanwhile, according to a survey commissioned in Nigeria in 2020 by the Nigerian Health Watch, 133 maternal deaths were documented in 18 communities across six focus states.
The six states are Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Lagos and Niger.
The survey, which is tagged; “Giving Birth In Nigeria,” further noted that out of the 133 maternal deaths, only 17 occurred in a designated health facility, signaling the high density of unaccounted mothers dying during childbirth.
The survey concluded that despite recording high rates of maternal mortality globally, many cases of women dying during childbirth in Nigeria are still unreported.
Tallen, Bagudu speak
“Nigerian women do not deserve to die or go through agony because of childbearing,” Mrs Tallen said at the event, adding that her ministry is working with the health counterpart towards developing a structure in rural communities to monitor and address compelling cases of maternal and child health.
The minister, who described childbirth as a mixture of joy and pain for women, said the passion to address the challenge is undying.
She said; “No word to describe the pain of childbirth; if a woman describes the pain she undergoes during labour, no woman would go for a second child. But the moment you hear the cry of the child all the pain vanishes and the moment the child begins to crawl the woman begins to think of having another child.’’
Also, Mrs Bagudu, who gave a lecture on the dangers of losing a mother and or child at birth, said a child whose mother dies while giving birth to him/her will likely struggle while growing up. “Likewise, most women who lost their child at birth are left traumatised.”
She identified some religious and cultural beliefs that contribute to maternal mortality, saying; “Most men, especially in the rural north, do not allow men to deliver their wives. But there are not enough female birth attendants in the country.”
Speaking of the book, Mrs Tallen described it as an “eye opener” especially for young mothers. She said it is a catalyst that will further snowball the conversation around addressing several factors hampering smooth and safe child delivery in Nigeria.
The minister said the book will also serve as a tool to intensify the collaboration between her ministry and the health counterpart on the subject.
She said 300 copies of the book will be distributed to all state units of the women affairs and social development ministry.
Similarly, the anchor of the event, Moji Makanjuola, a journalist, said the media has an important role to play by going into the rural communities to monitor, identify and report critical issues women face during childbirth.
The representative of Christian Aide, a non- governmental organisation, Charles Usie, said 70 per cent of about one million Nigerians displaced by conflicts between January and March are women and girls.
“Imagine a pregnant woman being displaced, so a book of this nature provides what could be done at such a critical time,’’ Usie said.
The author of the book, Mrs Adinya-Ade, said the challenges women face during childbirth and the need to raise awareness for improved maternal care motivated her to write the book.
She said; “I realised that spaces need to be expanded as well as firm narratives put forward to confront the numerous challenges that women face in Nigeria.
“Despite efforts at safe motherhood, there is an expedient need for improved maternal care and better delivery systems across Nigeria.’’
She added that the book launch would mark the start of an intensive six-month advocacy campaign for safe motherhood and improved maternal care and “we will use the proceeds therefrom, as well as donations, contributions and partnerships to sustain it.”
Meanwhile, the director of Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP), Ejike Orji, who was a panelist at the book launch, said huge investments in family planning can help Nigeria reduce the scourge of maternal mortality and complications in pregnancies.
Speaking on the sideline of the event, Mr Orji said; “Proper family planning services and investment will reduce 30 per cent of maternal deaths.
“Women need to have full access to family planning services. We are not investing adequately in that regard. About 20 per cent of women who want family planning are not getting it.”