Health Expert Laments Rising Maternal Mortality in Nigeria

Posted on: Fri 13-05-2022

A professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Oluwafemi Kuti, has lamented that pregnant women die on a daily basis owing to lack of safe medical facilities and enough trained medical personnel.

He said Nigeria had become global capital of maternal death due to lack of political will to prioritise maternal health across the country.

Kuti stated this, on Tuesday, while delivering the 361st inaugural lecture of the university and the seventh lecture series of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Perinatology at the Oduduwa Hall of the institution.

He said there is poor standard of care for pregnant women at the primary and secondary health facilities, adding that a good number of pregnant women had lost their lives in the hands of traditional birth attendants.

Kuti added that there was need for innovative strategies to increase uptake and promotion of more culturally acceptable and safe method of family planning to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality in Africa.

The expert said: “Nigeria is one of the worst places to give birth in the world. Many of our women either die or become maimed during pregnancy and childbirth, and many of the children would not be able to achieve their God-given potential.” Any visitor to the delivery ward in Nigeria will be greeted by the uncontrollable shouts of labouring women in agonising pains, in sharp contrast to the serene ambience of labour rooms in the developed world.

“More than 90 per cent of the cases of maternal death are from direct obstetric complications, which occur in 20 per cent of all pregnancies everywhere in the world, including developed countries. In other climes, however, these complications very rarely lead to death because the treatment, which has been available for decades, is accessible to the people and applied promptly and efficiently.

“Why then has there been no progress in reducing the maternal death rates in Nigeria for the past 30 years? The simple answer is that we had employed wrong strategies to address the problem. Previous strategies have been generic, patchy and unsustainable. Besides, many of the laudable programmes executed by state government were not sustainable.

On what government at all levels should do to reduce the rising rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, Kuti recommended good standard of care in orthodox health institutions through adequate monitoring of and training and retraining of personnel, adding that care during pregnancy and childbirth be made free to encourage more women take advantage of available good care.  

“I, therefore, propose a national safe delivery programme that will involve interventions to address direct obstetric complications. The programme should use the existing health centres for the distribution of interventions and should be backed up with an enabling law to make it a national project. A strong political will is, however, required for financial support and implementation at scale.