Checks have revealed that Nigeria constitutes two per cent of the world’s population but contributes 10 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality due to spent healthcare system. Odimegwu Onwumere writes that as a result of the apparent failed healthcare system, most women have resorted to traditional delivery homes with the attending dangers. Despite the promise by the present government President Muhammadu Buhari, which came into power in May 29, 2015, to establish the 17 agendas on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) index, that include providing good health and good living to all and sundry, Mrs. Joy Ebi, 28, a trader at the Oyigbo Main-market in Rivers State, would prefer to die instead of go to government hospitals for a child birth
Ebi patronises native delivery homes whenever she’s pregnant. Her three children were delivered in the homes. She would also patronise the native home as she’s pregnant for the next baby. This is in spite of advice from neighbours and relatives to the contrary. However, Ebi seems relaxed in the native delivery homes. She gives her reasons that she feels relaxed, accommodated and loved by the attendants unlike those in the hospitals.
“I’ve my reasons for going to native homes otherwise called quacks, to be delivered of my babies whenever I’m pregnant,” Ebi says. Adding, she enthuses that the native delivery homes attendants are kind unlike those of government hospitals.
“The native delivery homes are receptive, caring and charge little or no money unlike the government hospitals that pose above life and most times deliver women of their children through caesarean section (CS) just for money, whereas most of the women could deliver normally,” Ebi adds.
This is even as pregnant women who patronise government hospitals lament of high costs of delivery in government hospitals. According to reports, “One striking thing is that the charges in these hospitals are not uniform even though they are all run by the Ministry of Health.
“The policy of compulsory blood donation is also a source of worry. Pregnant women are complaining of high cost of ante-natal and delivery services.
“Some are asked to pay N12, 500 for registration while their husbands should donate blood, or pay N10, 000 for a pint of blood.
“This is excluding the money for your drugs and other laboratory tests. If you undergo CS, it will amount to over N200, 000. That’s too much for most of us.”
The rural women seek for delivery homes miles away from their abodes that often lead to some ‘putting to bed’ along their villages bush paths. It is believed that poverty is the reason for their action, because they cannot pay for the apparent mountainous bills pregnant women incur in government hospitals. But poverty is not the blight with Ebi. She is a university graduate and a trader of note in the city.
Apart from the traditional homes, many pregnant women attend religious places for prayers and also choose them as where they would give birth. Chris Ewokor in 2016, reported to BBC Africa from Cross River State, saying, “27-year-old Ransom Linus Martin, four months into her first pregnancy, has come to the Land of Promise church near the city of Calabar for prayers, but it is also where she will be giving birth.”
Ewokor added that Martin was not alone in her choice upon that campaigners were headlong to end the practice in Southern Nigeria, where many believed that they could be delivered of their babies by ‘God’.
“They do fasting and prayer here, and if you are pregnant you need to go to the place where there is God and there is daily fasting and prayers,” Ewokor impinged Martin, adding, “At the hospital there is nothing like prayer. They don’t pray. They only give you injections. But as you pray at the church, you get closer to God. On the day of your delivery, God will help you and you will deliver successfully.”
Notwithstanding, some medical pundits are of the view that at the government hospitals, their immemorial snowballing neglect and defective funding have made them equal to native delivery homes that are being operated individually with contemplative resources.
Reporting, Pricewaterhouse Cooper, a global thought leadership organisation noted, “The Nigerian elite class spends $1 billion on medical tourism and their child bearing needs, while the majority bottom poor are left to die in public hospitals or endure the uncertainties of delivering through traditional birth attendants which often end in fatalities.”
The highlight of it is that the dangers of pregnant women giving birth in this clime cannot be overemphasised. In the view of a 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, there were a predictable 814 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Nigeria. “About half of those deaths were caused by two conditions: uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage, and pre-eclampsia,” said the source.
In a meeting held with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, September 28 2016, the Executive Director of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who was a former Minister of Health in Nigeria, and the Permanent Secretary of the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, Mr. Mark Lowcock bemoaned that Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate has levitated to 10 per cent where about 111 women die on day-after-day footing.
“Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality,” said Osotimehin. UNFP also stated that in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has a 1 in 16 probability of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data believes that Nigeria’s maternal deaths record is a disaster, if not the highest globally.
“Even though, maternal mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly half in the last 15 years, Nigeria still faces a heavy burden, leading the world in the total number of maternal deaths per year. In 2015 alone, 58,000 Nigerian women lost their lives to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes,” said the data. Those who know better add that corruption, negligence and injustice have been the major factors debilitating the Nigeria’s broken healthcare system.
On the other hand, reports of a leading broadsheet in Nigeria had this to say, “The Nigerian Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) and the international NGO, PATH, revealed in a 2016 study how a lack of access to three basic medicines is increasing the threat of Nigeria’s two most deadly pregnancy complications: postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia.”
The source went further, “As of March 2016, there were 13 oxytocin products and four magnesium sulfate products registered in Nigeria that had not yet been judged to meet international quality standards. This increases the risk that maternal health products are poor or unknown.”
But while speaking in Uwanse village of Cross Rivers State, Ewokor explained that Dr. Linda Ayade, the Cross River State governor’s wife was appalled by the practice “of a church or traditional home birth” therefore she was crusading for a stop to the practice given her experiences in the government hospitals.
In her words, “I have worked in hospitals in Nigeria and I have first-hand experience of pregnant women being rushed in at critical times when they can no longer be helped. Some are even confirmed dead on arrival, and it happens quite often. I have taken it as an obligation to save lives and reduce incidences of maternal mortality relating to child birth and delivery, knowing what it means for a mother to die and leaving children behind.”