ABUJA – The Nigerian Society of Neonatal Medicine (NISONM), said on Thursday the death of less than one-month old babies accounted for 40 per cent of infant mortality in Nigeria.
The President of the society, Prof Angela Okolo, said that the three commonest causes of deaths in newborn babies include failure of newborn babies to start breathing as soon as they were born, infection, and prematurity.
She said at the society’s 7th Annual General and Scientific Meeting in Abuja that as part of the outcome of the conference, the society would recommend ways to reduce neonatal death in the country to government at all levels.
“We have looked at solutions we can recommend to the government at all levels on how to help our babies’ better.
“We intend to recommend that we should encourage access to health care facilities for mothers and their babies.
“When we are talking access we are not just talking transport but financial access because some of these things we have been examining over the past few days need a lot of finances.
“When we are talking finances, the finances are both to the health system and to the individual families and we know that up till now the health insurance scheme has not spread appropriately, so families still pay out of pocket.
“This is the number one recommendation we will make, improve access, improve means of the community reaching the health facility, improve financial access to support their needs,“ she stated.
Speaking to newsmen on the sideline of the AGM, Chairman of the organising committee for the meeting, Prof Kareem Airede, said that collaboration between communities and primary healthcare centres could strengthen efforts at reducing neonatal death in the country.
“Nigeria has one of the highest death rates in the newborn and if we are going to improve the MDG four, we have to make sure there are less deaths in the newborn period and to make matters worse more than 50 per cent of these deaths occur in the community that cannot have access to hospitals.
“That is why we are trying to see how we can engage more with the local people to understand the commonest cause of death in our newborns.
“If we educate our community leaders we would add more to reduce the highness of these diseases.
“Part of ways we want to use to empower the primary health care is to work constantly with them to make sure that the health workers are well armed; they know the pattern, the presentation and the complication of diseases.
“So they are nearer to the community. Once the community take any sick babies there they know what best to do and if it is beyond them they can then advise for referral,“ he said.
Airede, who is also a consultant neonatologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, said that the society was already sensitising women in Abuja Municipal Area Council to ways of reducing neonatal deaths.
The conference, which runs from June 24 to June 27, has the theme: “Enhancing Neonatal Survival in Nigeria: Which Way Forward“. (NAN)