Worsening health indices threaten Nigeria from meeting up with the Millennium Development Goal (MDG Goals 4 and 5) target of reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health as the 2015 target approaches.
Nigeria has been ranked as one of the worst countries for mothers and children to live in, according to ‘State of the World’s Mothers 2014’ annual mothers’ Index. The report ranked Nigeria 171st among 178 nations with a death rate record of 124 per 1,000 (having infant death rate of 74 per 1,000) and maternal death due to pregnancy and childbirth put at 1 in every 29 Nigerian woman.
Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children USA, said that Nigeria is among the bottom 10 countries because of its recent record of conflicts resulting in 19 million people affected, 11 percent internally displaced persons and 61 percent of over 160 million people having access to clean water.
“Our 2014 research demonstrates how critical – and difficult – the mother-child connection is during a humanitarian crisis, when families’ lives are thrown into turmoil. It’s no surprise that the 10 toughest places to be a mother in this year’s Mothers’ Index all have a recent history of armed conflict and are considered to be fragile states.
“Six of the bottom 10 countries suffer from recurring natural disasters. And, as usual, the poorest mothers have it the hardest: the report once again points out the disheartening disparity between mothers in rich and poor countries. We must demand humanitarian access in conflict areas, so mothers and children can receive adequate food and health care,” Miles said
She pointed out the need to promote family preparedness programs in disaster-prone areas and ensure recovery efforts focus on the special needs of children
“While we celebrate the mothers in our lives this week, we should also advocate for those who are in urgent need,” Miles concluded.
Olusegun Ogunjimi, a professor in the Department of Human Kinetics and Health Education, University of Calabar, noted that the underlying factor of most maternal deaths is ignorance and apathy by women and the society.
Ogunjimi noted that most women ignore early warning signs due to lack of adequate knowledge and information about danger signals during pregnancy and labour, and so delay to seek care.
Ogunjimi added that adequate preparation for any emergency before, during and after delivery is also lacking as haemorrhage infection, hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, obstructed labour and anaemia are major causes of high mortality rate in Nigeria.
According to him “Individual characteristics of mothers found to influence maternal deaths include maternal age, educational attainment, socio-economic status and antenatal attendance. Poor socio-economic development, weak health care system and socio-cultural barriers to care utilization are also contributory,” Ogunjimi added.
A peep into health indices in Nigeria show that in 2011, 6.9 million children under five reportedly died down from 7.6 million in 2010, 8.1 million in 2009 and 12.4 million in 1990. Child mortality is more prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa with about half of child deaths recorded as Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for 20 percent of global deaths.
Experts said that pregnancy, labour and early childhood are well recognized as being hazardous in most communities. Every now and then, women get pregnant and are delivered of their children some of whom often die from preventable diseases. As the nation marches towards 2015, experts believe that government must take the issue of maternal and child mortality seriously by matching words with actions for it to achieve the set target.
The 2014 index gauges the welfare of mothers and children in 178 countries – 46 developed nations and 132 in the developing world. The index showed that almost 60 percent of countries ranked in the bottom 10 over the years have been experiencing or emerging from conflict. It also showed that of the 28 countries that have ranked in the bottom 10, all but four have a recent history of armed conflict.
Somalia is ranked the worst place on earth for a mother and child to be as the country sits at the bottom of the table. Other nations in the bottom 10 include Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
Countries like Finland, Norway, Australia and Sweden top the list of the best places for mothers and children to live in. Others are Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, United Kingdom and Canada.
“Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001. We’re helping to improve health systems in northern Nigeria including the revival of routine immunisation. We’re helping 4,320 children through support for protection and peace committees and we are getting 12,400 children back to school and providing them with clean water,” the report concluded.