In this post, Ibraheem Dooba weeps over the avoidable carnage of maternal mortality in Nigeria. It’s simply unacceptable he argues.
“What would we have done if it were a plane crash?” Dr. Umar Tiffin, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health in one of the northcentral states, told me when I asked him to explain the rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria to me.
I, in turn, purposed to explain the plans better for the general public to understand. “What would we have done if that led to multiple plane crashes?” Dr. Tiffin asked again to direct my attention to the careless and avoidable deaths of women in Nigeria. “Would the president declare emergency if, regularly, we lost 576 individuals to plane crashes in Nigeria? What would the media do? Would our governors run in every direction seeking solutions? What about the general population? What would they ask the government to do? Would they call for probes and ask for the heads of the people in charge of the aviation sector?”
Depressing statistics on maternal mortality in Nigeria
Maternal mortality is a fancy name for pregnancy-related death, if the definition by the International Classification of Diseases holds. And if I’m to draw from the 2013 data of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Nigeria accounts for 14% of worldwide maternal mortality. Seeing that we’re less than 3% of the world’s population, this statistics is unflattering, disturbing even.
In Nigeria, maternal deaths account for 32% of all deaths among women age 15-49, according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2013. NDHS is published by the National Population Commission with inputs from other agencies and international partners.
What this means is that if 100 women died last month, 32 of them would hav died due to child-bearing related illnesses.
Many things kill women: accidents, cancer, AIDS, natural disasters, wars, etc. But when only one cause of death takes up 32% of their lives, every government must sit up and do something.
That was why more than 10 years ago, in 2004, Nigeria released a policy called the National Policy for Sustainable Development, with the objective of improving the quality of life and standard of living of the Nigerian population.
Specifically, it wanted to:
— reduce the infant mortality rate to 35 per 1,000 live births by 2015
— reduce the child mortality rate to 45 per 1,000 live births by 2010
— reduce the maternal mortality ratio to 125 per 100,000 live births by 2010 and to 75 by 2015.
Unfortunately, we must lower our heads in shame because, if the NDHS 2013 is an indication, we’re nowhere near achieving these targets. For example, we wanted to reduce the maternal mortality ratio to 125 per 100,000 live births by 2010, but it was 576 in 2013!
Dr. Tiffin’s plane crash analogy merits another attention. I’ve a friend who is a pilot and who told me that about 100,000 passengers travel by air in Nigeria every year. The fact that this is less than the traffic received from only one airport in South Africa shows that we don’t use this form of transportation much in Nigeria, but that is a matter for another day.
However, imagine that 576 people die out of these 100,000 passengers from plane crashes. Also imagine that they don’t all die at once: a plane would crash today, another next month, etc. throughout the year. Also imagine that they are from avoidable causes such as malfunctioning equipment and human error. Would we have done something? Probably. But it appears we’ve not done anything on maternal mortality – we consistently neglect our mothers.
NDHS 2013 noted: “The maternal mortality ratio was 576 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births for the seven-year period preceding the survey. This ratio is not significantly different from the ratio reported in the 2008 NDHS.
“The lifetime risk of maternal death indicates that 1 in 30 women in Nigeria will have a death related to pregnancy or childbearing.”
You would shake your head when you look at a young lady in the university and discover that 44% of deaths in her age group (20-24 years) is pregnancy-related.
In fact, the closer you get to your child-bearing years and the longer you stay in it, the higher your chances of dying. That’s if you’re female. Not surprisingly, all the 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality are in Africa. This means that in other countries, women don’t die when they’re pregnant, in ours, that’s about all they do!
Our women are supposed to be queens and princesses, but here, they’re beasts of burden. We burden them and subject them to all tasks imaginable – the ignoble ones and the painful ones. Yet we don’t care enough to keep them alive.
Additionally, women’s must prized possessions, their children, do not fare better. We kill our children the way we kill their mothers.
The 2004 policy wanted the infant and under-five mortality rates to be 35% and 45% respectively. However, these in the past five years are 69 and 128 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively, the NDHS 2013 says. At these mortality levels, one in every 15 Nigerian children dies before reaching age one, and one in every eight does not survive to their fifth birthday.
More simply, 12.5% of our children die before the age of five.
How do we kill our women? Through maternal mortality. Why? Because we don’t care.
Part two of this essay will delve into the experts’ consensus of what we must do to show we care, and in doing so, reduce our maternal mortality to zero.
Follow Dr. Dooba, a data scientist, on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared on Naij.com
For more information on maternal mortality in Nigeria, visit the website of the National Bureau of Statistics.