Chief Festus Odimegwu
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Nigeria still ranks high the list of countries with high maternal and infant mortality rates with a ratio of 545 per 100,000 live births on the maternal mortality index and 75 per 1000 live births on the infant mortality index; these figures are from the UN World Population Prospects and the Institute for Health Metric Reports (2010).
Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Festus Odimegwu, who disclosed this while speaking at a press conference to commemorate this year’s World Population Day (WPD), added that the Federal Government had budgeted $3m annually to provide free family planning facilities for Nigerians.
Although some progress had been made since the release of the report, he said a lot more still needed to be done to prevent the avoidable deaths; stressing that only 58 per cent women had access to ante-natal care.
Odimegwu, who represented by the NPC Commissioner in the FCT, Mr. Sani Suleiman, outlined grim statistics of the health status of reproductive women aged between 15 and 49 in Nigeria.
“Fifty-two thousand, nine hundred women and girls die every year from pregnancy-related causes. For every woman that dies, at least 20 others suffer morbidities such as obstetric fistula, infections and disabilities.
Twenty-three percent of women between 15 and 19 are already mothers or are pregnant with their first child, 20 per 1000 children die before the age of one month while 35 per 1000 die before their first birthday,” he lamented.
The NPC chairman added that interventions are being carried out in partnership with the UN Fund for Population Activity (UNFPA) to promote family planning, maternal health, sexuality education and HIV/AIDS prevention services.
Earlier, UNFPA’s National Program Officer for Reproductive Health Commodity Security, Mrs. Nike Adedeji, said the organisation was currently working to manoeuvre the cultural and religious impediments to the promotion family planning usage in Nigeria.
This, she said, was carried out with the aim of educating leaders of religious and traditional institutions on the need to allow child spacing to preserve the health of mothers and children.
She further added that Nigeria had no excuse on its 10 per cent use of contraceptives, noting that even countries that may be regarded as stables of the major faiths (Italy and Saudi Arabia) already record about 80 per cent use of family planning methods which has helped them to reduce infant and maternal death rates.