E4A said it is the responsibility of every member of the society to promote safe motherhood.
In celebration of the International Safe Motherhood Day, Tunde Segun, Country Director for Evidence for Action (E4A), a maternal and child health outfit based in Abuja, called for all hands to be on deck to ensure that women, especially during child birth, are guaranteed safety.
Mr. Tunde pointed out that Safe Motherhood Day is not nationally celebrated. He explained the concept of safe motherhood as the right of a woman to go through pregnancy and childbirth without harm to herself and her child. He said this is a human rights approach to ensuring the life, health and wellbeing of a woman throughout their reproductive years as well as the health and well being of newborns.
In a heart wrenching statistical analysis, Mr. Tunde said that 90 per cent of maternal mortality takes place in developing countries and stressed that safe motherhood is very pertinent to all as the death of a woman especially during childbirth has a ripple effect and is being felt by all including her husband, and relatives as well as the nation as a whole. Her children will not be adequately taken care of and can probably end up a miscreant, he said.
Mr. Tunde feared that Nigeria might not achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 which are reducing child mortality and improving maternal health respectively. He said it will be especially dangerous for the goals to not be achieved.
Challenges to achieving safe motherhood in Nigeria
The maternal and child health expert listed inadequate human resource as a major hindrance to safe motherhood in Nigeria.
He noted with only about 102,000 nurse and midwives in Nigeria and an average of six million births per annum, Nigeria is grossly incapacitated in human resource.
“There should be a wider pull of midwives; either they are recalled or retrained,” Mr. Tunde said.
He also cited response to complications arising from pregnancy as a challenge and said Nigeria has inadequate life saving commodities, equipment and access to healthcare facilities.
“What kills women during pregnancy and child birth is when they develop complications and response to these complications being sorted out is the problem in Nigeria,” he said.
On the use of community based health extension workers in most rural areas where maternal mortality is on the rise, he explained that because one can only work with available tools, these extension workers are being trained in ‘Modified Life Saving Skills Training’ and not to the level of professionalism of midwifery.
He said the community based health workers are only armed with enough skills to enable them recognize danger signs and help them stabilize the women before getting a referral. He also said that discussions are currently ongoing on task shifting and task sharing where these workers can be able to do what these professionals can do.
He also said that all the policies need to be backed with the right human and financial resources.
“A policy document does not translate to a woman receiving quality care services. It needs to be translated into action by having implementation framework or a strategy…. We do not lack the right policies but implementing the policies we have is our biggest challenge,” he said.
Mr. Tunde stressed that ensuring good health of a people is the responsibility of government and not that of non-governmental organisation, civil society organizations or partners whose role is to complement the efforts of the government.
He charged the Nigerian government to live up to its responsibilities, especially at the Primary Healthcare level, in order to achieve safe motherhood in the country.
Mr. Tunde stressed that international human rights conventions and national constitutions should be used to advance safe motherhood as it will give women a right of choice through increased girl education for opportunities in learning life skills and discourage child marriage.
Access to quality maternal health, skilled birth attendants made available at every delivery, power partnership, measuring progress, prevention of unwanted pregnancies and addressing unsafe abortion are some of the ways to go forward, Mr. Tunde said.
He called on Nigerians and the government to play a part in the promotion of safe motherhood and asked husbands to endeavor to encourage their wives to go for antenatal and post natal care.