UNICEF Report: 82,000 Nigerian Women Die Annually From Pregnancy-Related Causes

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

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 82,000 Nigerian women die every year due to pregnancy or childbirth complications.

This figure is alarming and has doubled the previous estimate released by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). UNICEF’s Chief of Health in Nigeria, Dr. Eduardo Celades disclosed this data in Lagos on Wednesday, at a three-day media dialogue on COVID-19 and routine immunization held in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Culture.

The UNICEF representative stated that about 225 women are dying every day from maternal mortality, which calls for immediate action from the Federal Government and all stakeholders in the country.

Maternal mortality refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. The global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined by 34 per cent from 342 deaths to 223 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2000 to 2020, according to UN inter-agency estimates.

However, the global humanitarian intervention agency revealed that Nigeria was witnessing eight million childbirths yearly, which is not commensurate with healthcare indices in the country.

Dr. Celades said that the country has a high rate of maternal mortality at the moment, stating that the new figures will help UNICEF respond to health challenges in the country. UNICEF plans to strengthen primary health care in Nigeria to reduce maternal mortbenefite explained that UNICEF would launch antigens virus vaccines in the country soon, immunizing children from some childhood diseases. The vaccine would also be in line with the country’s progress towards the attainment of SDG three.

Celades called for effective investments in primary healthcare at the state level and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF). He emphasised that the country must focus on National Health Insurance to reduce maternal mortality.

“New data shows high maternal mortality rates with 82,000 deaths per year. We aim to strengthen primary healthcare in Nigeria and align with government efforts. MICS and global maternal mortality trends inform our approach. UNICEF and the UN can’t work alone but in collaboration with the government, journalists and influencers is crucial for change.

UNICEF is working with the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce maternal mortality in Nigeria. The body appealed to state governments and partners to allocate resources to the most vulnerable women in hard-to-reach and inaccessible areas.

Earlier, the UNICEF Nigeria communications officer, Safiya Akau noted that “the importance of journalists and the media in battling false information concerning COVID-19 and routine immunisation cannot be emphasised enough.”

Akau added that “journalists have a critical role to play in providing the public with correct and timely information, combatting false information, and fostering a sense of community and solidarity in the face of any epidemic.

“UNICEF has been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other preventable diseases by promoting social behaviour change, COVID-19 vaccination, systemic health system strengthening and routine immunisation. To effectively communicate messages on these important issues, it is important to make the most of this media dialogue,” she said.

She identified the objectives of the media dialogue, which include: “Identifying and discussing the sources of misinformation about COVID-19 and polio and their associated risks; examining different strategies for reporting on COVID-19 misinformation and polio vaccination and dispelling myths, and providing guidance on how to use evidence-based resources and best practices when reporting on COVID-19, polio response, and routine immunisation.”

In conclusion, maternal mortality is a major concern in Nigeria. The country must prioritize effective investments in primary healthcare, National Health Insurance, and allocation of resources to the most vulnerable women to reduce maternal mortality. UNICEF is working with other organisations to reduce maternal mortality in the country.

Racheal Abujah
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