3 January 2013

Nigeria: Delta Moves to Curb Under-Five, Maternal Mortality

Delta State Government has intensified efforts to reduce incidence of under-five and maternal mortality through the implementation of Community Audit of Maternal and Neonatal deaths in the state.

The implementation of the audit process is to ensure that accurate data on maternal and neonatal deaths are kept at the community level to identify the root causes of such deaths and proffer adequate solution to prevent further occurrence.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the stakeholders' forum on the Audit process, held recently in Asaba, the Commissioner for Health Dr. Joseph Otumara, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. Daniel Omodon, said the Uduaghan administration has established cogent measures to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths in the state.

Some of the interventions in this regard, according to him, include: introduction of free maternal health care programme; roll-out of the integrated maternal, newborn and child health strategy with technical support from the Federal Ministry of Health; organisation of maternal, newborn and child Health Weeks; free under-five healthcare programme, and strengthening of family planning services.

Otumara said the initial goal of the maternal health programme was to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of reducing maternal mortality ratio of 275 deaths per 100,000 live births for Nigeria.

"We have since surpassed this goal, but do not want to rest on our laurels. We are striving to achieve maternal health care that is comparable with what is obtained in industrialised countries as we work hard to be one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020", he said.

He said the implementation of the community audit of maternal and neonatal deaths was a step in the right direction, adding that though Oshimili South would be the take-off point, plans to scale up to other LGAs are already in place. "This is not a witch-hunting exercise but collective efforts to ensure that women do not die while giving birth and that children live their normal life span", he explained.

Director of Primary Health Care, Disease and Control, Dr. Mini Oseji noted that through the support of the West African Health Organisation and the United Nation Population Fund, Delta State is known to be one of the leading states in Nigeria in the area of contraceptive utilisation.

She stated that the support from West African Health Organisation has ensured the training of Community Health Extension Workers on Home-Based Care, and the development of Delta state strategic plan for free maternal health services.

Oseji said the free health policies of the Uduaghan administration such as the free maternal, under-five, and rural health scheme have gone a long way to reduce the cost and disease burden among thousands of households in the state.

She said the stakeholders' forum was aimed at sensitising relevant stakeholders on the project in order to remove socio-cultural barriers and obtain cooperation from public and private health practitioners as well as community members.

The occasion featured goodwill messages, demonstration on use of the public health information bulletin, report feedback on audit of maternal death in Oshimili South LGA, presentation of work plan for community audit of maternal and neonatal deaths and group work to finalise work plan.

In a submission at the forum, Prof. Angela Okolo noted that Nigeria was off-track at meeting the MDGs and that several efforts are currently being put in place to ensure it attains the MDGs, adding that implementation of the community audit on maternal and neonatal death will help to identify causes of death at communities to help prevent future occurrence.

Also, in her goodwill message, Hon. Pat Ajudua noted that a bill on maternal and child health care has been presented to the state House of Assembly, adding that all the female legislators would galvanise their male counterparts to ensure its success.

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