The Nigerian government has set up a task force to coordinate strategies for reducing pregnancy related deaths among women.
The 36-member task force will focus on six states of the country with the highest maternal mortality cases.
The states had been found to have the worst maternal health indicators, using skilled Birth Attendance Rate, SBAs, as a proxy indicator. They are Yobe, 10.2 per cent; Kebbi, 9.3 per cent; Katsina, 7.7 per cent; Jigawa,7.6 per cent; Zamfara, 6.1 per cent; and Sokoto, 5.4 per cent.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, at the inauguration of the task force on Tuesday in Abuja, said the government intends to bring focus on maternal mortality ratio, MMR, in the country, with the slogan: “No Woman Should Die Giving Birth.”
Mr. Adewole, a professor of gynaecology, lamented the high prevalence of MMR in Nigeria.
The task force has three months to turn in an interim report on its activities in the six states, using Kaduna and Oyo states as control model.
“I am very particular about the health of the women and it is highly unacceptable that at this age Nigeria still ranks high in the MMR prevalence rate in the world,” he said.
He said the task force should to go to the field to work on how to reduce the high MMR rate in the country, “especially in those six states, because they have the highest population of women who die due to childbirth-related illnesses.”
“With the report of the task force, the project will be converted into a nationwide campaign because Nigeria as a whole has a very high MMR. This is seen as part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG, to reduce Maternal Mortality to 70 deaths per 100,000 lives in 2030.
“We need your team to go to the field to propound solutions on how the country can reduce the high mortality ratio as it is unacceptable, especially 30 years after the world has been working on reducing the number of women who die during childbirth.
“The MMR of a country speaks a lot on how much the country is spending on its health care and the death rate recorded in the country has shown that there is still lot to be done. The maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria remains high despite the significant reduction in Maternal Mortality globally in the past one and a half decades,” he stated.
The World Health Organisation describes maternal mortality as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.
Currently, Nigeria ranks highest in maternal and new-born mortality in Africa; and as at 2010, ranked 10th highest in the world.
Mr. Adewole said statistics from the National Demographic and Health Survey, 2013 indicates that the MMR in Nigeria is 576 per 100,000 live births and Neonatal Mortality Rate is 37 per 1000 live births.
Oladapo Ladipo, President/CEO, Association for Reproductive and Family Health and also one of the representatives of the development and implementation partners, in his goodwill message said the inauguration of the task force was a welcome development.
He said that it is important that all hands are employed to reduce MMR in Nigeria because the lives of women are worth saving.
“It is time for the government to build on what has been done before. The ministry has been in the forefront of eradicating MMR and the introduction of family planning is a good tool that can be used to reduce MMR.
“The initiative of reducing high maternal mortality rate is not new, having been launched 30 years ago. Yet Nigeria still has a very high prevalence rate.”
He said there are socio-cultural factors upholding the MMR, and stated education as the key in reducing it.
The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Binta Adamu-Bello, said the ministry of Health had been collaborating with partners to promote the health of Nigerian mothers through various strategies and interventions.
She said the task force should “think outside the box” to chart the way forward and make recommendations that will strengthen the healthcare system and improve maternal health indices nationwide.
The chairman of the task force, Adeniran Fawole, a professor and Director, National Institute of Maternal and Child Health, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, assured that the group will do all it can to help as maternal mortality must be seen as a priority issue in the health sector.
He said the task force would ensure that the assignment is carried out successfully to signal that the country is giving due respect to women.