Despite several interventions to reduce Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Nigeria still contributes ten percent of global burden of maternal deaths.
According to National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), the maternal mortality is one of the highest in the world with an estimate of 574 maternal deaths for every 100, 000 live births. This huge burden of maternal deaths makes the reduction of maternal mortality in African a global priority.
To formulate effective strategies to tackle the menace, a consortium consisting of Africare, EpiAFRIC and Nigeria Health Watch inaugurate an 18-month project called "Giving Birth in Nigeria".
According to them, the project will focus attention on the issue of catalysing accountability for maternal deaths in Nigeria, to ensure that the death of every woman related to pregnancy or in childbirth is made to count stressing that no woman should die giving life.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), EpiAFRIC, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, at the project launch in Epe Local Government Area, Lagos, said the aim of this project is to develop and implement approaches that incorporate the community voice in maternal death reporting and surveillance efforts, with a view towards making all maternal deaths count.
He added that the consortium will focus its activities in six states of the nation: Kebbi, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Lagos, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), stating that it will enable a depth and breadth of information from varying contexts within Nigeria to inform further action.
"This project is ensuring accountability for maternal health and from the data almost 60, 000 women die every year in Nigeria about 160 everyday. This project is being funded by MSD for mothers and the project is all about finding out from the communities why women die so with that information we can advocate and work with communities and prevent more women from dying," Nsofor said.
He added that Epe was chosen because looking at the data maternal mortality occurs mostly in rural communities and Epe is one of the rural audiences in Lagos and data show that Epe records a lot of maternal deaths. The CEO said: "Our project will be different because we want to really amplify the message. Before now most of the interventions is either in the facility or community. We want to make sure that what is happening is something we can amplify beyond Nigeria because when a lot people know why women are dying then they can begin to take actions."
Nsofor said they do not want to be reporting just numbers, but to report actual stories about what happened so that that can appeal to people's emotion. "It is something we feel that is going to different from other maternal health project. The project is widespread," he noted.
Maternal And Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response Programme Coordinator for the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Victoria Omoera, said the project is very important because a lot of work has been done in the facilities and the Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) but we have not done much in monitoring and surveillance on maternal death.
Omoera continued: "It is critical for us to go into the communities to be able to understand the number of women we are losing and find out the cause and contributing factors because it is only when you have data and information you can plan appropriately.
"We have done a lot of work with general hospitals and PHC facilities. So, this is really important because we know these maternal deaths are preventable. When you have information, it is key, power. It will help us as government with our partners to plan, to ensure that the right intervention is done within the communities."
The coordinator said when the community members are informed they know what to do when they are pregnant, where to go to and understand what that dangers signs are and know when to report to the health facility and ensure they get proper care.
She added: "Of course, we really want to reduce our maternal death. The response has been positive, even for us as a state we know that the indicator is reducing. We want to really reduce it because it is preventable. So, we know that the more effort we put the more we get our relevant stakeholders especially the communities involved. This is an ongoing thing; it is not something you do once. You know the population of Lagos; we need to keep on educating them, telling them what to do. "For us as government, we will ensure that supply side is there, the facility, trained health workers, right equipment and consumables.
"The health insurance is coming up; it will deal with the issue of health financing. We are certain the more we keep on intervening the process maternal deaths will reduce."
Director of Programmes Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, said the essence of project is increase surveillance and report cases of maternal mortality for purpose of data management.
Ihekweazu added: "When women go through health facilities and antenatal care, they are monitored and make sure the women are progressing and if there is any issue they should be aware of that. That way they can prevent any complications when she is going to deliver the baby. When she gives birth in the health facility, she is in contact with the midwives and experienced personnel who can advice her."
She said the project is about ensuring that those reasons women are dying is known so that future women do not have to die for same reasons.
"We want to make sure women go to health facilities and have access to good quality and accessible care. We need the government to make sure the health facility is fully equipped and many can have access to good quality care," she noted.