Maternal and infant mortality is a tragedy that is still very rampant in Nigeria due to a number of factors in the nation's health care system. This fact was made known recently during a sensitisation workshop organised by the Development Communication Network (DEVCOM) to highlight reporting on maternal health and accountability in the country.
The aims of the project are to increase policy makers and government officials' knowledge and action on maternal health situation, increase quality and frequency of media coverage on maternal and child health, strengthen communication and collaboration between media communication leaders, health workers and civil society organisations (CSOs) working on maternal health accountability. It was revealed at the forum that Nigeria is working towards the improvement of maternal and child health through the primary health care component of maternal and child care.
The objectives of these maternal and child health services are to ensure that as far as possible, women remain healthy throughout pregnancy and also detecting mothers at risk and giving prompt treatment to them during complicated pregnancy and labour. Training, Research and Communication Officer, DEVCOMS, Mrs. Abiodun Owo said increased frequency and depths of news reporting and articles in print and electronic media are relevant for stakeholders as health professionals, communication leaders and CSOs working on maternal health accountability increase their efforts at saving lives.
A technical partner of the Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP), Mrs. Dede Kadiri highlighted the rate of maternal and child mortality reduction in Lagos State. Kadiri said they were able to gather the evidence supporting LACSOP, match government so that they could be able to take incredible decisions for the people. "In 2010 we conducted a health budget analysis to understand the health priority of people, the commissioner asked if we could generate an independent national programme in Lagos and assess why maternal mortality rate remained high inspite of interventions.
"We were able to assess 30 PHCs in 2013 and found out four critical issues, firstly; the Post - pertum-haemorhage out of the 30 PHCS we went to, we found out that almost all of them were unable to handle post-pertum-haemorhage, and most times, they don't have equipment and ambulances for referral processes to send them to general hospital for attention. "Secondly; electric power supply, most PHCs still make use of candles and lanterns in the labour room, thirdly; the attitude of staff are sending people off to use other alternatives such as private hospitals and traditional birth attendants. Finally; the problem of water supply and dirty boreholes," she stated.
To buttress her point, Kadiri quoted a Chief Nursing Officer in llasa PHC thus: "the staff contribute their money to pay off PHCN officials whenever they come around for disconnection, we still use lantern and torch light in the labour room." Mrs. Grace Ketefe who represented Dr. Abiola Akiyode Afolabi, Director Legal Aid, Women Advocates, Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) recommended WARD/CCR to urge the Nigerian government to back its stated commitment to reducing maternal deaths with the necessary actions and also improve access to family planning services, including a full range of contraceptive methods. "We want to see maternal death as an issue and ensure that the fundamental human rights are guaranteed and dismal state of maternal health in the country is corrected," she explained.
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Randle General Hospital, Dr. Adeleke Adesola Kaka also spoke on issues concerning the reduction of maternal mortality in the country. Kaka stated that the lifetime risk of maternal death varies from 1:7 to 1:32 in low income countries and 1:1000 to 1:47, 400 in high income countries. He noted that some of the causes of maternal deaths are indirect deaths related to pregnancy, indirect deaths as a result of pre-existing conditions like cancer and cardiac disease in a pregnant woman, and coincidental or fortuitous deaths, which could be from non-obstetrics or medical causes like rape murder or poison.
"In order to prevent maternal deaths there should be conducive working environment for women, increase awareness among the populace, provide basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care services and increase access to effective methods of contraception," he emphasised.
Mr. Bolaji Adepegba stressed the journalistic approach to reporting health matters. He urged journalists to bring complex information to the knowledge of the concerned public especially women, insist on proper management of facilities that care for mothers and babies and also beckon on policy makers to reckoning on maternal and child health. "As a journalist strives to provide informed analysis of complex issues and upgrade statistics to flesh and blood for proper interpretation," he counselled.