Emmanuel Ugwu, Umuahia

Despite Nigeria’s high maternal mortality ratio of 608 deaths per 100,000 live births, the nation could still join the league of countries where safe motherhood has become the norm, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Christian Aluka has said.

Aluka gave the message of hope when he delivered the 32nd Inaugural Lecture of the Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), entitled ‘I Shall Deliver Like the Hebrew Women: Cultural, Political and Religious Challenges to Safe Motherhood in Nigeria’.

“To achieve safe motherhood in our country and significantly reduce maternal mortality ratio, our health services should be adequate, accessible, affordable and user-friendly,” he asserted
Aluka, who is the Provost, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, ABSU, used comparative analysis of the trends in maternal mortality from 1990 to 2015 in Nigeria and in developed nations like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to show how possible it is to achieve safe motherhood.

He noted that while the cited developed nations had achieved enviable reduction in maternal mortality ratio through sustained policies aimed at improving the healthcare system, Nigeria has continued to bear heavy burden of high maternal mortality even among developing nations.

Aluka advised that Nigeria should borrow a leaf from developed nations and put in place sustained policy frame work of a well organised healthcare system whereby all levels of healthcare delivery system – primary, secondary and tertiary- would be well funded, equipped and staffed with well trained health professionals.

To achieve the set target he recommended community mobilisation to be part of health policies of government so that “women, their families and their communities are carried along in planning and provision of their healthcare” and also encouraged to adopt modern health practices.

He said that everything should be done to achieve safe motherhood in Nigeria as the desire of every couple and every family is “to hear the voice of the mother and the cry of a bouncing baby” after a cycle of pregnancy.

Aluka explained that women play a very important role in the continued survival of human race hence they should not be allowed to die in the course of giving birth.

He said: “When a woman dies, children (orphans) lose their primary caregiver, a widower is created, the family is thrown into sorrow and the community is deprived of her service. Any social and economic investment that has been made in her life is lost. A woman’s death is more than a personal tragedy.”

Aluka made a radical proposal in the fight against maternal mortality, saying that the war cannot be won in the cities and tertiary health institutions where the general take cover and issue orders but rather in the rural areas where the enemy is operating.

“If rural women cannot come to the city, the healthcare providers should go to them,” he said, adding that the care of obstetric patients in each local government should be assigned to a named health team headed by a specialist/consultant obstetrician.”

According to him, the health team would work in liaison with other stakeholders in the health project which include community and local government teams made up of community, political, religious and traditional leaders.

‘‘This proposal will bring antenatal care closer to the rural women and increase the number of deliveries under skilled supervision (and) reduce the number of unbooked patients (unregistered pregnant women) presenting late with labour complications. It will significantly reduce maternal and prenatal mortality in our state,” Aluka said.