ABUJA- The Spinal Bifida and Hydrocephalus Care Foundation, an NGO, has urged governments at all levels to put in place surveillance systems to monitor and prevent birth defects in the country.
The President, Mrs Olubunmi Lawal, made this call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Saturday.
Lawal said that daily intake of folic acid for every woman of child bearing age would prevent birth defects.
“We want government to make folic acid available and accessible to every woman of child bearing age.
“If every woman of child-bearing age takes folic acid, it reduces the risk of such woman having a child with spinal bifida or hydrocephalous by 70 per cent.”
Lawal said that it was also important for Nigeria to make folic acid fortification a policy to supplement food intake.
“We are calling on all stakeholders, governments, health experts, private individuals and the corporate bodies, to take birth defects seriously.
“Nigeria needs a surveillance system to monitor and manage birth defects to reduce infant mortality.
She said that birth defects were the fifth leading cause of more than three million neo-natal deaths annually.
“We need to put in place birth defect register where we can track all newborns coming with birth defects, in order to know where to channel our efforts.”
Lawal said that children with birth defects were not only a burden to their families but also to the national growth and development of the country.
She noted that managing a child with spinal bifida or hydrocephalous was expensive, as it takes no less than N90 million.
“How many Nigerians can afford that and it is not easy to have access to the neurosurgeon.”
She said that there was the need for more neurosurgeons to prevent medical tourism in the country.
Lawal said that only 20 per cent of children with special needs will be alive to control their faeces and urine, adding that there was also an inability to work.
“Birth defects is a burden on national growth and development, that is why we want speedy attention to this issue, to reduce the number of children dying from preventable causes.
“Our surveillance system also needs to work, because if we do not know what it is, we cannot plan for it’’.
She also urged the Federal Government to train experts on pre-conception care as well as set up a unit for it in health facilities.
Lawal further stressed the need for experts to research more on birth defects in order to know its causes. (NAN)
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