It is National Women’s Health Week, and there is an urgent need to make their health a priority in Nigeria…
Countless mothers whose only crime was their place of birth face numerous challenges as they bring new lives into the world. Yes, we chant that maternal health is a fundamental human right, but this has done next to nothing for several underserved communities across Nigerian states. The statistics are sobering: Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with an estimated 512 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to the global average of 211 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births according to the World Health Organization.
UNICEF also believes that Nigeria has a high rate of under-five mortality, with an estimated 132 deaths per 1,000 live births. The disparity is loud enough to say that access to quality healthcare especially for expectant and new mothers has gone beyond an elephant in the room to be a crucial discussion.
Behind these staggering numbers are real stories of pain, anguish, disparity, and disproportion. Mothers who truly want the best for their unborn children, but cannot make this happen because fish cannot fly. Mothers who are denied basic prenatal care because of their social or economic status, who deliver their babies in unhygienic conditions, and who lack access to skilled healthcare professionals when complications arise. Mothers who endure long, treacherous and unforeseen journeys to reach the nearest healthcare facility, only to be turned away due to lack of resources or discriminatory practices. Mothers who suffer from preventable and treatable conditions such as hemorrhage, infection, and hypertension, but cannot access the care they desperately need.
The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018 reported significant disparities in maternal healthcare access based on socioeconomic status, with only 14% of births attended by skilled healthcare providers among women in the poorest quintile compared to 79% among women in the wealthiest quintile. Also, only 20% of healthcare facilities in Nigeria have basic emergency obstetric and newborn care (BEmONC) services available.
You see, these mothers are in Nigeria, these mothers are going through pain that cannot be quantified, these mothers need our help.
The consequences of these systemic failures are dire and far-reaching. When a mother breathes her last, the pain and effect of her loss are not limited to her family alone. There are profound societal and economic impacts that cannot be overlooked. Children are left motherless, families are plunged into grief, and communities are robbed of the invaluable contributions these women can make to the society. In all, the wheel of poverty and inequality keeps rolling unhinged as maternal health is intrinsically linked to the well-being of families and communities; whether we like the sound of that or not.
No, it is not simply enough to shed a tear or two, say a silent prayer, and move on to the next funny video on Instagram, it is time to move beyond words to action.
Every mother in Nigeria deserves the chance to experience a safe and healthy pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period. Join The GEANCO Foundation on a journey to ferry these women across the sea of adversity, one community at a time. Together, we can make a profound impact and pave the way for a more equitable and just healthcare system that leaves no mother behind.