40,000 women die from pregnancy-related complications yearly in Nigeria – Official

An official of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Salma Kolo, has said that pregnancy-related illnesses have claimed more lives in Nigeria than the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Ms Kolo, who is the director of Family Health at the ministry, made this known during a three-day virtual media training organized by the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health (RMCH).

She said at least 40,000 women in Nigeria lose their lives to pregnancy -related issues annually.

She noted that over one million children under the age of five also die as a result of losing their mothers to pregnancy delivery complications.

“Maternal-related illnesses kill more than COVID-19 virus. Between 40,000 to 50,000 women die from pregnancy/delivery causes yearly,” she said.

“Also, over one million children die from maternal-related deaths. If a mother dies of childbirth complications, the chance of the child surviving is slim,” she said.

Ms Kolo said to end this menace, it is important for women especially those in rural communities to embrace family planning.

She said women should adopt family planning not as a way to reduce the country’s population but as a means to boost their quality of life.

She explained that women are dying as a result of the country’s high fertility rate, low contraception uptake, and lack of access to quality healthcare services, particularly at primary healthcare centers.

She said contraceptives is one of the best ways to prevent maternal mortality and more than 90 per cent of maternal deaths are preventable if women do the right thing

“Family planning is not to control the number of people but for a better life and economic development,” she said.

She noted that about 60 per cent of Nigerians pay out of pocket to access healthcare services, noting that such a development further restricts women from seeking comprehensive health services.

“We must make sure our primary healthcare facilities are functional and our  national heath care scheme   (NHIS) is also there as a safety net, especially for the vulnerable,” she said.

Meanwhile, in his remarks, the national coordinator of RMCH, Emmanuel Lufadeju, decried the low uptake of modern contraception, which he noted currently stands at 12 per cent.

Mr Lufadeju noted that there exists a huge unmet contraception need among women; 48 per cent for unmarried women, and 19 per cent for married women.

“We need to manage our population such that life will be comfortable for all. We are about 200 million now, and it is projected that in 50 years, Nigeria’s population will be over 400 million.

“We have to take more serious efforts into managing our population,” he said.

A resource person from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Abubakar Panti, said Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and ranks 7th in the world.

Mr Panti noted the need for the country to immediately check its population explosion, through family planning methodologies.

He said majority of states with lower contraceptive rate are poorest in the country.

“Low contraceptive rate, contributes to high poverty rate,” he said.

A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist of college of medicine, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Christopher Aimakhu, said Nigeria needs at least $5 billion yearly to fully meet contraceptive services and maternal and newborn healthcare for women.

Mr Aimakhu said investment in family planning would improve quality of care for current users and coverage for new users.

“If unmet need for modern contraception in Nigeria were satisfied, unintended pregnancies would drop by 77 per cent, from 2.5 million to 555,000 per year.

“As a result, the annual number of unplanned births would decrease from 885,000 to 200,000 and the number of abortions would drop from 1.3 million to 287,000,” he said.

Mr Aimakhu, who is also the Secretary General Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON), said that the budgetary allocation for family planning dropped from N1.2 billion to N300 million in 2019.

He said decreasing allocations for family planning and consistent delay in release of funds contributes to the low percentage of family planning uptake in the country.

“If a full provision of modern contraception were combined with adequate care for all pregnant women and their newborns, maternal deaths would drop by 68 per cent (from 61,000 to 19,000 per year) and newborn deaths would drop by 85 per cent (from 255,000 to 38,000 per year),” he said.

Mr Aimakhu called for collaborative efforts to improve family planning access and uptake in the country.

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