Reducing high maternal deaths in Nigeria

Director, MTN Foundation, Elder Dennis Okoro (left); Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; and Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma at the media briefing and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony of the MTN Foundation Maternal Ward Support Project in Lagos...

Director, MTN Foundation, Elder Dennis Okoro (left); Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; and Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma at the media briefing and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony of the MTN Foundation Maternal Ward Support Project in Lagos…

MTN Foundation, JNC International unveil Maternal Support Project to enhance govt’s efforts
Nigeria has been labeled as one of the countries with the worst maternal mortality ratios. According to 2015 reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day and 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries like Nigeria.

An even more specific representation is provided by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) which reports that “Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 children under five and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.”

However, due to the fundamental role a mother plays in the life of a child, Nigeria’s current statistics of 53,000 deaths per year during childbirth is indicative of inherent lapses in the critical aspects of the healthcare delivery system.

A recent UNICEF reports states that that every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy/ childbirth in Nigeria. These worrying statistics reveal the extent of damage that is being done and dims any hope of a possible solution if urgent steps are not taken, it also shows that financial and geographical access to care and good quality healthcare delivery service is becoming scarcer by the day.

As part of efforts to address the high maternal deaths in the country, MTN Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of telecoms company MTN Nigeria, joined forces with JNC International to unveil the MTNF Maternal Support Project to enhance the efforts of Government in reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria.

The partnership, according to the Foundation, is driven by an objective of creating unhindered access to affordable health care facilities/ services provided by skilled healthcare professionals particularly for the safety of pregnant women and their children.

present at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding were Commissioners of Health from the six beneficiary states: Abia, Cross River, Kaduna, Niger, Oyo and Sokoto that were selected for the first phase of the project. The six states were selected following a thoroughly rigorous selection process, to become beneficiaries under the first phase of the MTNF Maternal Ward Support Project.

Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma, said: “We are concerned about how maternal health can be improved. We also believe that the private sector must work with government and the public sector to help reduce maternal mortality and ensure that our mothers and children lead healthy lives.”

Ugboma who noted that a sizeable number of these deaths are from preventable causes while others occur due to lack of access to pre-natal care further explained the huge benefit that the initiative brings “This is why we started the MTNF Maternal Ward Support Project. Through this initiative, we seek to contribute to creating unhindered access to health care systems and skilled health professionals for pregnant women in Nigeria.”

The goal, under the first phase, is to renovate and equip maternal wards in at least 24 hospitals across the six states. Each maternal ward would be 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.

Following the launch, the Foundation hopes to sensitize women in these states to visit the maternal wards, so they can get easy access to the right care in a favourable environment.

Assuring of the foundation’s continuous support Ugboma said: “Guided by our discussions with our stakeholders in the private and public sector, we will continue to invest in improving the quality of life of Nigerians in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment. We are also grateful to millions of Nigerians who continue to support our parent company – MTN Nigeria through easy or tough times.”

A member of the House of Representative, Abass Tajudeen, thanked the MTN Foundation for taking a bold step in supporting the efforts of the Federal government in addressing issues of primary health care delivery in Nigeria.

With the launch of the initiative the MTNF and JNC hope to continue complimenting Government efforts to reduce child mortality with areas relating to focus on Primary Healthcare, retraining and re-orientation for birth attendants especially in the rural areas and equitable distribution of healthcare facilities around the country.

MTN Foundation, in a statement, said it has so far invested over N18 billion into key projects spread across health, education and economic empowerment. It will be recalled that recently the foundation commenced the implementation of another 200 new projects under the MTNF What Can We Do Together initiative. “These projects are being executed based on nominations by members of the public last year and have been making tremendous impacts in communities around Nigeria.”

MTN Foundation’s position is supported by a public health physician at the Department of Public Health, Faculty of Allied Medical Sciences College of Medical Sciences University of Calabar, Cross River State, Dr. Antor O. Ndep, who, in a study published in International Journal of Health and Psychology Research, said informed community participation is essential to reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria.

Ndep in the study also published by European Centre for Research Training and Development UK noted: “Women in Nigeria face significant socio-cultural inequities resulting in poor health indices especially during pregnancy and after child birth because of society’s defined gender roles that may not consider the changed status of a pregnant woman.

“Current research is focused on clinical, institutional/policy level deficiencies with little community involvement and not much is said about culture, beliefs and practices that may negatively impact on maternal health. Under the current Primary Health Care model, a Community Health Committee (CHC) made of a chief, police officer, and health professional and a school principal represents community involvement. This committee composition is supposed to aid access to community level data on issues related to maternal health such as; intimate partner violence including rape, girl child education/ educational resources for women and community level resources for female wellbeing, socio-political participation and entrepreneurship.”

“In reality though, community-level data is collected by health workers who may not be part of the CHC and may not be properly trained in community participatory needs/assets assessments. The CHC has become a symbol of token community involvement and data collection is often done to meet funders’ needs, which often may not capture the intricacies involved in the daily lives of women that negatively affect their health before, during and after childbirth.”

The study recommended among other things: developing a community participatory, women-centered data collection model aimed to inform, educate and promote a better understanding of sociocultural factors that influence maternal morbidity and mortality with the aim of developing culturally appropriate interventions and policies.

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