The Rivers State Health Commissioner, Dr. Adaeze Oreh has expressed deep concern about the state’s alarming child mortality rate.,
Oreh shared her worries with journalists in Abuja on Friday, highlighting steps taken by the state to address this critical issue.
Under-five mortality rate, which refers to the likelihood of a newborn dying before reaching the age of five, is a key indicator of a region’s healthcare quality. Unfortunately, Rivers State has been grappling with a rising child mortality rate.
According to data from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the under-five mortality rate in Rivers State was 58 per 1,000 live births between 2016 and 2017. Although it was the fifth lowest nationally and the second lowest in the south-south region, this rate climbed in subsequent years. In 2018, it reached 79 per 1,000 live births, placing the state 12th nationally. By 2021, the figure had surged to 100 per 1,000 live births, making it the 13th highest nationally.
These figures reveal a concerning trend of rising child mortality in Rivers State, from 58 per 1,000 live births in 2017 to 100 per 1,000 live births in 2021.
Oreh also expressed her dismay at the low rate of childhood immunization in the state, emphasizing the urgent need for improvement. She noted that less than 60 per cent of children in Rivers State have received full immunisation for childhood illnesses. The difficulty in reaching children in remote areas has contributed to this low immunisation rate, resulting in higher child mortality rates.
To tackle this issue, Oreh stressed the importance of integrating partner support into the existing healthcare system. By optimising existing partnerships and avoiding programme duplication, the state can effectively address the healthcare needs of children and enhance overall health outcomes.
Furthermore, the commissioner underscored the significance of recognising and rewarding healthcare workers. She emphasised that acknowledging their contributions and providing incentives are essential to ensuring access to quality healthcare services for the community. Neglecting healthcare workers can lead to significant gaps in healthcare access and negatively impact families’ well-being.
Oreh also discussed the financial burdens faced by families when seeking healthcare in the state. Many families are forced to make difficult choices between essential expenses like food, education, transportation and medical treatment. This predicament often results in families sacrificing one child’s health for the sake of the rest of the family.
To alleviate this financial burden, the state has established a task force on immunization, which will identify gaps in primary healthcare services and nutrition at the community level. Collaborating with traditional leaders and community organisations, this task force will implement interventions benefiting the entire community.
The health commissioner emphasized the importance of partnerships, not only with multinational organisations or the private sector but also within the communities themselves. These collaborations can significantly improve health outcomes and enhance healthcare services.
The state’s primary focus is on strengthening primary healthcare centres and addressing high levels of infant mortality among children under the age of five. By ensuring that effective and quality healthcare is accessible at the community level, families will not have to make agonising choices and sacrifices.
Furthermore, Oreh highlighted the importance of state health insurance providers, which enable vulnerable members of the public to access healthcare without financial constraints. A household survey conducted by the state revealed that families are spending significant amounts, up to N40,000, on healthcare expenses, placing a heavy burden on households that often lack the means to afford such costs.
Oreh stressed the need to break the cycle of health-related poverty and illness in Rivers State. She firmly believes that residing in a state like Rivers should not equate to enduring poverty. Through partnerships, engaged healthcare workers and the removal of financial barriers, the state aims to break this cycle and enhance the overall health and well-being of its residents.