Maternal Mortality: The plight of women in Nigeria

Pregnant women, even healthy ones, face some risk of complications that has resulted in death or serious disabilities. Each year, an estimated 529,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes, with most cases occurring in developing countries of Africa and Asia. Yet, the deaths are only a tip of the iceberg; for every death, at least 30 women suffer serious illness or debilitating injuries.

In many sub-Saharan African countries, many women receive no medical care before, during or after childbirth. Even deliveries in health facilities can be risky due to poor quality of obstetric care.

The same pregnancy-related complications that threaten women’s survival can also cause death and disability in new-borns, while the same health assistance that would save women’s lives could also prevent suffering on the part of women who survive and also their new born babies.

Maternal mortality is very high in Nigeria despite many efforts to reduce its incidence and, generally, to improve maternal health.

Nigeria accounts for about 13 percent of the global maternal death rates with an estimated 36,000 women dying in pregnancy or at child birth each year. At least 5500 of these deaths are among teenage mothers.

The Demographic Health Survey 2013 disclosed that only 9.8 percent of Nigerian women use modern family planning methods, while 16.1 percent have an expressed unmet need for family planning.

“51 percent of pregnant women had at least four antenatal care visits only 38 percent of the annual 6.6 million births in Nigeria were assisted by a skilled attendant,” it said.

More so data made available by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) however noted that over the last 20 years, Nigeria has made significant progress in reducing the maternal mortality ratio. It, however, added that Nigeria has to make concerted efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goal of 300 per 100,000 (or under 20,000 annual deaths) by 2015.

Nigeria also has about 260,000 neonatal deaths annually, 13 percent of which can be prevented with live saving interventions such as provision of required maternal health medicines and supplies, qualified and dedicated health workers.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio of Nigeria was estimated 800 per 100,000 live births in 2000, and the Federal Ministry of Health recently estimated the ratio at 948 per 100,000 live births.

Against this backdrop it is expected that health care professionals should have a common goal of caring for their patient’s well-being; it is interesting to note that most government hospitals in Nigeria today have undedicated, careless and unskilled health workers who also have developed a nonchalant attitude toward their work which in return has affected their patients especially the pregnant women.

The hostility of health workers has greatly contributed to the rate of maternal mortality in Nigeria today because most women tend not to get the best care from providers especially in government hospitals who ought to be concerned for them.

Investigations made by Mail Express reveals that some members of staff of the hospitals in the FCT operate as touts and demand extra money to speed up access and dispense drugs to pregnant women.

Speaking with pregnant women at some government hospitals in Abuja reveals that it is better to get a bed space at the private hospitals than the public ones because some nurses sell the bed spaces at the hospital and those who don’t have money don’t get admitted even if  there are registered there.

Eunice Steven who lost her child due to prolonged child labour narrates her experience with nurses at the Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja.

“On the day I was to give birth to a child, I came to the hospital and there I met pregnant women sitting and crying on the floor we were told that there was no bed spaces to be admitted so I had to go to Wuse General Hospital, there I was rejected again on the basis that I was not registered there and the beds were all occupied, then the pain became severe and I started to cry because at that point I did not know where to go to anymore, then a nurse walked up to me and said I should pay N5,000  so I could be given a bed, I had no choice so I did and I was admitted by the time I was attended to, my babe was dead already in the womb so I was induced and I had a still birth”.

“That was my first child and since then I have vowed not to patronize any government hospital anymore when it comes to child birth despite the fact that it is cheap, the government and the health workers (nurses and Doctors) need to do the right thing or else the issue of maternal mortality in Nigeria cannot be tamed, our hospitals lack good health facilities and health workers on their part don’t have the interest of their patients at heart a majority of the exploited people attend the hospitals”

“If you want quick service, you have to part with some money if you don’t pay this extra charge, then it’s as good as you did not come, she added.

Mrs Lucy Gorge, a pregnant woman at the hospital said “pregnant women are not finding it easy in government hospitals at all, the majority of us go through hell to see a doctor and we are not treated with care by nurses, that is why the rich once will go to private hospitals but those who can’t afford private hospital will rather go through the stress which most time make women lose their children if care is not taken” she lamented.

However, in Maitama General Hospital, some pregnant women who spoke with Mail Express said the attitude of most nurses at the hospital has affected most pregnant women so much and left some women in a confused state during delivery which according to her is very bad for a woman with such a condition.

Mrs Folurunso Adeleke and Mrs Khadijat Mustapha said though the cost of health service was cheaper at public hospitals, they prefer private hospitals.

According to them, the sorry state of public hospitals has made it difficult for them to register for antenatal there.

“Though, it is cheaper to register at the public health institutions for antenatal, the service delivery is poor compared to what one gets at the private hospital. A pregnant woman is made to pay for effective health service at private hospital but even when you pay at the public hospital, the service you get cannot be compared with that of a good private hospital,” Mrs Adeleke said.

Some of the expectant women who spoke with Mail Express at the Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital on condition of anonymity told of some difficulties they went through before accessing the services because of the large population of expectant mothers that come for antenatal care.

One of them said: “At times, the population of pregnant women in the hospital is large, making it a bit difficult before we could be attended to.

“Though the health workers need to be more dedicated to their work and more so improve on their customer relations but also the government is not left out because most of these doctors, nurses, lab attendants  have limited equipment to work with, you can imagine a pregnant woman in serious labour comes to the hospital and there is no bed space to admit her or a woman who has just given birth and lacks blood in her body cannot get blood  immediately because it is not  available in the hospital.

With the recent strike in the health sector, Mail Express visited the National Hospital in Abuja, activities were at their lowest ebb, with the environment deserted, and no nurse available. A few doctors were however at work to give assistance to patients on appointment before the commencement of the strike

The wards were locked up some pregnant women could be seen begging and crying to medical doctors to attend to them while some were seen sitting and hanging around in confusion.

These and more shows the plight of pregnant women who don’t have the means to go to a private hospital, how some of them suffer, during pregnancy and after birth.

Alex Uzoma a medical doctor speaking with Mail Express attributed some of the attitudes of health workers to lack of professionalism.

“Most of our health workers in Nigeria today lack professionalism, as a medical doctor or a nurse your patient is your number one priority, you are expected to handle your patient in a way that he or she gets both physical and psychological healing” he said.

“In the case of pregnant women not having bed space in hospitals I will like to say it is not the making of doctors or nurses, many times they have more patients then the available beds in the hospital at that time, what can the doctors or nurses do? They are handicapped so most of these issues are what the government need to address also” he said

Thus, the current issue of health workers’ nonchalant attitude toward pregnant women in the health sectors especially the government hospitals calls for an urgent action by the relevant authorities to make sure health workers do not neglect their job and responsibility especially as they relate to maternal health care.

By Gift Chapi

Source: Mail Express

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