Hope for Pregnant Women in Nigeria


As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark World Pregnancy Week despite the country’s poor maternal health indices, MTN Foundation, through its Maternal Ward Support Project, hopes to change the narrative as it supports the effort of the government. Martins Ifijeh writes

While many couples suffer infertility in Nigeria but continue to nurse hope at getting pregnant someday, those who have been lucky at pregnancy seems to nurse growing fear over whether they will deliver safely or not, especially when considering maternal and child health indices in the regions they live in.

For instance, pregnant women in developed nations like the United States, Germany and Canada, where maternal and newborn deaths are barely at the minimum, often have little fears to contend with, as there exists high possibility that they would most likely deliver their babies safe and sound, with their own health also intact.

But the same cannot be said of a developing nation like Nigeria where maternal and newborn deaths still remains the highest in Africa, and just second to India globally, leaving pregnant woman at the mercy of what the country’s healthcare offers.

In fact, India and Nigeria, in all the almost 200 nations of the world, accounts for one third of the global maternal and newborn deaths in 2013, according to a maternal health advocacy platform, www.maternalhealth.org

On specifics, over 52,000 Nigerian women die yearly due to pregnancy complications, delivery or post delivery complications, amounting to about 143 women dying in the country on a daily basis, according to a report by the United States government in 2016. Making Nigeria one of the worst places in the globe to give birth.

Maternal death is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.

According to a 2015 report from the WHO, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth everyday.

And even more specific representation is provided by United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), which reports that: “Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 children under five and 143 women of childbearing age, making it the country with the second largest contributor to under–five mortality and maternal death rate in the world. Also, for every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria.”

Additionally, death of newborn babies in Nigeria is said to represent a quarter of the total number of deaths of children under five years. The majority of these deaths reportedly occur within the first week of life, mainly due to complications during pregnancy and delivery, reflecting the intimate link between newborn survival and the quality of maternal care.

With Nigeria still lacking behind in solving its poor maternal and child health issues, even as it failed to meet the just ended target given in the Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5), experts have identified lack of access, affordability and availability to quality healthcare; lack of awareness by the citizens on family planning; and apathy among Nigerian women to patronise skilled healthcare (including skilled birth attendants) as the major causal factors for the abysmally poor maternal and child health indices in the country.

It is in tackling this and changing the country’s narrative over maternal indices that the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma, has called for collaborative efforts toward tackling the issue head on through the government, citizens, well meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations.

According to her, “no woman deserves to die during childbirth, as the process itself should be a source of happiness and not sadness to the society. With the establishment of quality healthcare facilities and the citizens’ willingness to patronise them, the maternal and newborn health indices will greatly improve.

“The lives of our mothers and their children are of great importance to us. The maternal mortality rate in Nigeria, remains of great concern to everyone who cares. As the world marks the Pregnancy Week, we want to encourage our pregnant and nursing mothers to take very good care of themselves. They should register in health centres nearest to them for adequate care and regular check up by qualified medical personnel.”

Ugboma stated that the MTN Foundation has continued to champion causes to support the reduction of maternal deaths in the country through its Maternal Ward Support Project which will cut across several states in the nation.

“At MTN Foundation, we are committed to complementing government’s efforts in reducing maternal child mortality ratio. This informs our decision to invest in the revamping of some maternal wards in General Hospitals across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

“We believe that Nigeria can overcome these challenges with the support not only of public institutions but also of public spirited individuals and private organisations; if we all show our commitment,” she said.

The first phase which has six beneficiary states including Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger, Abia, Cross River and Oyo have been completed. A total of 24 selected hospitals in these states benefited this time.

For instance, General Hospital, Shargari, (Sokoto), General Hospital, Gwadabawa (Sokoto), General Hospital, Lapai (Niger), Jubrin Mai Gwari Hospital, (Kaduna) and General Hospital, Tabuwal (Sokoto) have taken ownership of the maternal wards equipped and renovated by the Foundation. Others include the General Hospital Kafanchan (Kaduna), Adeoyo Maternity Hospital, Ibadan (Oyo) and Ring Road State Hospital Ibadan (Oyo).

Ugboma explained that the hospitals were equipped with ultra-modern executive beds, incubators among other facilities, and were renovated to create a beautiful ambiance. The modernised wards would contribute significantly to the reduction of maternal and infant mortality rate in the state and the nation as a whole.

“Each of the wards is equipped with 20 hospital beds with cardiac rest, 20 standard hospital mattresses, 20 standard hospital bed pillows, 10 four-way foldable ward screens, 20 metal bedside cupboards, 20 visitors’ chairs, 10 drip stands, 20 hydraulic over-bed tables, 10 height adjustable baby cots and two Carl Novel baby incubators,” she said.

The Foundation hopes to commence the second phase very soon with six other states benefitting from it.

“It is heartwarming to note that beneficiary states thus far have shown their commitment and desire to pull their people out of the doldrums of maternal mortality as they continue to drum their support for the Foundation’s initiative,” she noted.

For the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal who spoke through his Commissioner for Health, Dr. Balarabe Shehu Kakale Shuni, proximity to accessing care is the most attractive incentive of the Foundation’s gesture.

“The Foundation, has brought healthcare closer to our people, as pregnant and nursing mothers in Shagari Local Government Area will not have reasons to travel as far as Sokoto capital to access healthcare thus minimising the stress and rigour that usually come with such journey for the mother as the government. We thank MTN Foundation for being a great friend and for bringing a world class international standard maternal ward to the grass root local government,” he said.

Confirming the essence of closeness to care, the Medical Director at the General Hospital, Lapai, Niger State during the unveiling of the maternal ward at the hospital said, “most of the pregnant women go to other health facilities to have their delivery and along the line some may have complications before they come to the general hospital. Some cases get to us at a very critical stage, but we have always tried our best to address the situation, unfortunately, some of these cases may become fatal. But now, that will be reduced greatly with this facility.”

Aside the facilities provided, advocacy and education are very key to reducing maternal mortality. According to Dr. Funmi Soneye, a Peadtric Surgeon at the University College Teaching Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, the mothers also needed to be well educated.