NA4H Urges Government To Prioritise Maternal Health

A midwife listening for the heartbeat of a pregnant woman’s baby.

The National Advocates for Health (NA4H) has highlighted the detrimental impact of health setbacks on maternal mortality in Nigeria.

The call was made by the chairman of NA4H, Hon. Mohammed Usman who spoke on behalf of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and emphasized the urgent need for the new administration to prioritise maternal health during a recent meeting in Abuja.

The meeting, organised by the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), aimed to promote accountability for various commitments, including FP2030 Commitment, Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP), Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) and sexual gender-based violence.

Usman expressed concern over the increasing or stagnant rates of maternal deaths across the country. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.1 aims to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.

“In November 2021, new EPMM coverage targets were launched to align with the SDGs, accompanied by global, national, and subnational indicators,” Usman explained. “These indicators underscore the importance of expanding access to quality maternal healthcare and empowering women to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.”

Usman warned that if the country fails to make progress in reducing preventable maternal deaths, the number of women losing their lives during childbirth will increase further by 2023. He urged governments at all levels to address the existing gaps, emphasizing that childbirth should be a time of life, not death.

Stakeholders, including NGOs, young people and the media, must play their roles effectively to ensure the government fulfils its commitments regarding FP, ENAP, EPMM and sexual gender-based violence justice in Nigeria, Usman emphasised. He commended AHBN for its efforts in promoting accountability through the annual meetings.

A health economist and monitoring & evaluation specialist at AHBN, Mrs. Maimuna Abdullahi called for renewed action to achieve the targets of reducing maternal, newborn, and stillbirth rates by 2030. Abdullahi stressed that accountability is a responsibility that all Nigerians must take seriously.

According to the joint ENAP and EPMM progress report, the improvement in maternal and newborn health and survival, as well as the reduction in stillbirths, has stagnated since 2015. Abdullahi emphasised the need for the new administration to maintain investments in health and social sectors and prioritise primary healthcare for the well-being of mothers, newborns and children. She suggested that by providing quality care closer to communities, many complications can be prevented, identified, and addressed at earlier stages.

Chairman of Nigeria Meaningful Adolescents and Youth Engagement (MAYE) Working Group, Mr. Olympus Adebanjo highlighted the current political transition in the country as an opportunity to strengthen family planning commitments. Ade-banjo emphasised the importance of civil society and youth engagement in accelerating access to family planning and achieving positive demographic dividends.

The information and youth engagement officer at AHBN, Ms. Halimah Bello stressed the need for stakeholders to ensure the successful delivery of FP2030 commitments. Bello mentioned that the retreat aimed to empower stakeholders in tracking the progress of FP2030 implementation and holding the government accountable for its commitments. AHBN has been actively building the capacity of civil society organisations and the media to monitor the government’s progress and advocate for accountability.

Despite the global decline in under-five mortality, the sub-Saharan Africa region still faces significant challenges. According to a 2021 UNICEF report, the under-five mortality rate in Nigeria stands at a staggering 56.220 deaths per 1000 live births, which is a slight improvement from 57.701 deaths per 1000 live births. However, this figure remains unacceptable when compared to statistics from other developing countries.

For example, Ghana’s under-five mortality rate in 2022 was 31.768 deaths per 1000 live births, a decline of 2.9 per cent from the previous year. Paediatricians emphasise that one-quarter of these deaths can be prevented through interventions such as immunisation.

Addressing the health setbacks that contribute to maternal mortality is crucial for Nigeria. The government, in collaboration with NGOs, must take proactive measures to prioritize maternal health, improve access to quality healthcare, and empower women to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. By addressing these challenges head-on, Nigeria can strive towards achieving the SDG target of reducing maternal mortality and ensuring that childbirth is a safe and joyful experience for all women.

Racheal Abujah
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