The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has said that about 82,000 Nigerian women die yearly from complications from pregnancy or childbirth in the country.
It broke it down to 225 women dying every day from maternal mortality, which requires urgent action from the Federal Government and all stakeholders to halt the menace in the country.
The UNICEF Chief of Health in Nigeria, Dr. Eduardo Celades, disclosed this in Lagos on Wednesday, at a three-Day Media Dialogue on COVID-19 and Routine Immunization, organised by UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Culture.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Maternal mortality refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. From 2000 to 2020, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined by 34 per cent – from 342 deaths to 223 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to UN inter-agency estimates.
On the other hand, the global humanitarian intervention agency revealed that the country was now witnessing eight million childbirths yearly, expressing worry that the situation was not commensurate with healthcare indices in the country.
NAN recalled that the new death rate arising from pregnancy-related complications doubled the figure released by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), just in March 2022, when it said that at least 40,000 women in the country lose their lives to pregnancy-related issues annually.
It also said that over one million children, under the age of five, also die as a result of losing their mothers to pregnancy delivery complications.
But speaking at the media dialogue, Celades said that Nigeria has a very high rate of maternal mortality at the moment, stating that the global maternal mortality report from 2000 to 2020, was recently launched as the source.
According to him, the new figures which he said were received, will help UNICEF in its response to health challenges in the country.
He said: “In the last few months and weeks, we got new data. The report is telling us that the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes is very high. About 82,000 are estimated to die every year from maternal mortality.
“What we are doing is to strengthen primary health care in the country.
“We hope that the data would help us in our response and the response with the government in Nigeria.
“The other one is the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), an analysis where there is the main issue and how we can face them.
“The other new data is the global maternal mortality trends, 2000 to 2020. This is a new report that was launched a couple of weeks ago and we wanted to share that with you because we think this could influence how we work and define how we work with the government so that we can all align and we can have a common narrative.
“We think that this is the new way of working. We are learning and we are trying to innovate. Nigeria is one of the most complex countries in the world in terms of public health issues facing it.
“It is the second country in the world with more zero-dose children–the ones that have not had any single vaccine. It is the country in the world with high maternal mortality.
“Last year was the biggest outbreak in the world and Nigeria has an extremely weak health system. So, we are trying to think from different angles because we at UNICEF and the UN cannot move alone. To do that, we need the government to work with journalists and social media influencers to make the change that is needed.”
He said that UNICEF is planning to launch antigenes virus vaccines in the country soon, noting that the vaccine would immunise children against some childhood diseases.
He said that the country is moving towards the attainment of SDG three, but, its current pace is insufficient to meet the targets.
“Maternal mortality is not going down. Maternal mortality is the same. We have seen that it has reduced by about 12 per cent in the last 20 years but it is not enough if we want to achieve the target.
“So, from UNICEF, our main approach is to try to accelerate interventions to make an impact. Now, we have seven more years to 2030 and we are halfway. If we continue like this, some donors will leave in the next few years, so we have a window of opportunities,” he explained.
He called for an increase in effective investments in primary healthcare, at the state level as well as the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).
“The second one is that now, we have a very powerful tool to get Universal Health Coverage, (UHC). To reduce maternal mortality, we must focus on National Health Insurance. So I appeal for expansion of the National Health Insurance as much as we can.
“We must invest in the most vulnerable. We appeal to the state governments to allocate resources and with partners we will allocate enough resources to that.
“Our third appeal is to target the most vulnerable, those women who don’t have access in the most hard-to-reach areas and in the more inaccessible places. We need to invest in getting into these areas,” he said.
He disclosed that UNICEF was working in collaboration with the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch what he described as Leadership Challenge.
“The challenge is called the Primary Healthcare Leadership Challenge and the idea is to recognize and reward state governments that are investing more in primary health care.
The launch, he said, would attract different categories of awards with US$200 million as the highest to states that would win from the six geopolitical zones of the country. (NAN)