International Women's Day: Nigeria can stop the needless deaths of women due to complications of pregnancy and child birth

Lagos Nigeria, March 6, 2014 -  As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the International Women’s Day 2014, with the theme Inspiring Change, it is essential to reflect on opportunities and challenges facing the Nigerian woman, especially during our centenary celebration.

While there is increasing participation of women in government, it is worrisome that the rate of violence against women and the persistent needless deaths of women due to complications of pregnancies and childbirth still remains a major debacle for many women  when many African countries are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to reduce maternal deaths.
In September 2000, Nigeria along with over 188 other countries vowed to reduce by half her maternal mortality rate by the year 2015. Similarly, in April 2001, heads of state of African Union countries met in Abuja where they pledged to set a target of at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector.  However our leaders’ attitudes and commitment towards improvement does not guarantee the much anticipated reduction in maternal deaths. Nigeria’s budget in 2013 was 9.4% less than the recommended rate agreed upon during the Abuja declaration hosted on Nigeria’s soil. The country’s health budget during the period was 5.6% as against the recommended 15% suggested by the African Leaders.  The result is a slow progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6.
Nigeria is ranked amongst the countries where pregnancy is unsafe to carry. According to World Bank data, Nigeria ranks 9th worst in the world with 630 deaths per 100,000 from 10 years data collected from 1990-2010.
Illiteracy and poverty are chief among the social factors responsible for low access to maternal health care and facilities, leading to high maternal mortality in the affected regions.
Despite our high fertility rate of 5.5 (NDHS 2013) and a fast increasing estimated population of about 170 million, the contraceptive prevalence rate for all modern methods is 10% of currently married women(NDHS 2013).  This and an unmet need for family planning commodities (20%) both contribute to several unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths which would have been averted.
Speaking about the international Women’s Day 2014, the Advocacy Advisor, Nigerian Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), Mrs. Charity Ibeawuchi says Family Planning (FP) can reduce maternal mortality by 30% if utilized appropriately. According to her, “there is a need for women to take positive steps to limit and space child births, as a way of reducing maternal mortality and advancing women’s and family health.” 
Thus, it will be one sided to celebrate women achievers without a mention of the challenges facing grassroots women. This year’s international women’s day presents an opportunity for women to inspire change within their purview. There can be no supply without a demand. Health workers, government officials, policy makers and other stakeholders need to be held accountable and responsible for the maternal health services rendered in any cadre of health facilities.
In her word for the government, Charity says “adequate provision of modern FP methods and quality services is a major responsibility of governments. ‘Women should not be denied access to services, even at their door-steps”.
With collective voices, rendered by the public - especially women, media and civil society groups, more women will be saved and more actions taken by the policy makers to increase health budget and infrastructure to create women friendly policies and make maternal health services absolutely free for all women in Nigeria.

Development Communications (DevComs) Network 
International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8, every year. It is a day to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. The theme for this year is: Inspiring Change, which encourages advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.
Release Date: 
Monday, August 29, 2016

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