Lagos — The UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) on Friday urged the Federal Government to prioritise the recruitment and retention of midwives in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) 4 and 5.
At a joint news conference in Lagos, with some groups in Lagos, the UNFPA said that the shortage of midwives remained a challenge to Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) care delivery in Nigeria.
The other groups are the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and two NGOs, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and the Save the Children.
The MDG 4 seeks two-thirds reduction in child mortality while MDG 5 seeks 75 per cent improvement in maternal health.
The UN in 2000 inaugurated the MDGs to be achieved by all nations by 2015 for the wellbeing of humanity.
In a statement read at the conference by the National Coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance, Mr Tonte Ibraye, the groups said that Nigeria should be more committed to the achievement of the MDGs.
They said that although the country's Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) was commendable, Nigeria might not achieve the two MDGs unless it showed more commitment.
They urged the government to develop and implement national MNCH plans to strengthen health workforce and improve routine data collection.
" These plans should set goals for education and training, legislation and regulation, recruitment and retention, and association for midwives and other health workers," the groups said.
They urged the removal of all barriers to healthcare delivery for women and children including fees.
In his remark, the Executive Director of UNFPA, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, said that 1,000 women died daily in Nigeria while 5,500 newborns died in their first week of life due to the lack of adequate medical care.
" In poorest countries, as few as 13 per cent of all deliveries are assisted by a midwife or health worker with midwifery skills," said Osotimeyin, Nigeria's former Minister of Health.
He was represented at the conference by Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, Programme Adviser, Reproductive Health and Rights Unit, UNFPA.
Osotimeyin said that the UNFPA and more than 20 of its partners would in 2011 "scale up our joint investment in midwives programme".
Earlier, Dr Olayinka Oladimeji, Zonal Coordinator, NPHCDA, South-west Zone, said that Nigeria had recruited 4,000 midwives since 2009 to serve in 1,000 primary healthcare centres and 250 general hospitals nationwide under the MSS.
Oladimeji expressed regrets that the North-East and North-West geopolitical zones were worst hit by maternal and child mortality, but said that there had been a significant reduction since the inception of MSS.