The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, on Wednesday said Nigeria would be saving $1.5 billion annually by investing in maternal health.
The Deputy Representative of UNFPA, Eugene Kongnyuy, made the disclosure in Lagos at the Unveiling of the Regional Ambassador for Maternal Health in West and Central Africa Region organised by the fund.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that renowned Nollywood Actress, Stephanie Linus-Okereke, was unveiled as the Regional Ambassador for Maternal Health in West and Central Africa Region by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole.
Mr. Kongnyuy said, “In Nigeria, the country will be saving 1.5 billion dollars yearly by investing in maternal health.
“Investing in maternal health is a smart investment; if you put one dollar in maternal health, it will yield 120 dollars.
“So, it is where the government should put its money, because it is yielding high returns.
“Globally, if you think of maternal health and translate it, the number of women dying, because when a woman dies, the baby is also likely to die.
“When you sum up all that globally, it leads to productivity loss of $15 billion every year of these women dying.’’
The representative said that the costs of not taking action now on maternal health would mean that poverty eradication efforts would be undermined.
According to him, economic growth will slow down, inequalities sustained and countries will miss out on a vast source of human capital needed to take sustainable development forward in the 21st century.
“While this is the role of the government, the mandate of UNFPA, and an area of interest of many organisations, the role of the community and individual champions cannot be underestimated.
“In particular, we need high profile public advocates for maternal health and the rights of young people to reach their full potential in Africa,” he said.
Mr. Kongnyuy said that more than 55 per cent of pregnant women still gave birth without any assistance from a skilled health worker.
He said that only 12 per cent of pregnant women who needed emergency obstetric care services received them.
“This means lots of women and adolescent girls are still at risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions.
“Some progress has been made, but a lot still needs to be done.
“There is need to raise awareness on these development issues, engage communities and advocate for women and girls at the policy and decision making levels,” he said.
In his remarks, Omolaso Omotosehin, a Reproductive Health specialist with UNFPA, said, “Today, we celebrate the merging of two worlds – entertainment and development aid.
According to him, we leverage on both platforms to raise awareness on the issues that affect women and girls.
“We cannot underestimate the roles celebrities play in development or humanitarian aid.
“Celebrities are crucial in raising discussions on unpopular issues like child marriage, HIV Awareness, condom use, access to family planning and so on.
“They are significant partners in reaching many of the people that can foster change.
“In the real sense, we are all ambassadors, because we stimulate sensitive conversations and ask pertinent questions that serve as the bedrock for the change we want,” Mr. Omotosehin said.