Maternal Mortality: Progress and Potential in Nigeria

Image courtesy of The Global Poverty Project
Image courtesy of The Global Poverty Project

When it comes to achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 – reducing maternal mortality ratio by 75 percent and granting universal access to reproductive health by 2015 – Nigeria is fighting an uphill battle. Here are some quick facts to illustrate just how staggering maternal healthcare (or lack thereof) is in Nigeria:

  1. Nigeria is currently ranked among the top ten most dangerous countries for a woman to give birth, placed alongside Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan.
  2. In 2010, approximately 40,000 women passed away giving birth and another 1 to 1.6 million suffered serious disabilities related to their pregnancy and/or childbirth.
  3. Data from The World Health Organization suggests that 630 of every 100,000 childbirths result in a maternal death.
  4. Nigerian women face a 1 in 29 chance of dying from childbirth whereas the average risk throughout Sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 39.  (The risk in developed countries is as low as 1 in 3,800.)

To clarify: 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the world occur in Nigeria.

However, not all hope is lost.  Abiye and Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development are two programs currently working to decrease maternal mortality in Nigeria.

The Abiye program, meaning “Safe Motherhood” in the Yoruba language, was launched in 2009 by Nigeria’s Ondo State government and has already seen major progress in diminishing maternal deaths in the region.  The success of Abiye is often attributed to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, the Ondo State health commissioner and brains behind the program.  The program began with extensive surveys at the community level, allowing programmers to gain a better understanding of why Nigeria suffered from such a high maternal mortality rate. Investigators discovered four major “delays” contributed to maternal deaths that inevitably became the backbone of the program:

1)    The delay in deciding to seek care (due to education, mistrust of health facilities, or family constraints);

2)    The delay in reaching care (due to distance, infrastructure, or communication);

3)    The delay in receiving appropriate care upon arrival (due to inadequate manpower, supplies, drugs, or health infrastructure);

4)    The delay in referral (when complications beyond local facility capacities arise).

The Abiye program works to eliminate problems surrounding these delays through various means and has, so far, experienced dramatic improvement in maternal health.  Before implementation, health facilities in the Ondo State delivered approximately 100 children annually. Within one year, healthcare facilities completed more than 2,000 deliveries and after two years that number rose to more than 6,000. A 2013 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies highlights the Abiye program as a major success and encourages others to seek similar innovative approaches towards improving maternal health.

The next question you might be asking is: How can I help? This is where Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development comes into play.  The program – affiliated with major international development players including USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, Grand Challenges Canada, the World Bank, and the Government of Norway – challenges others to find innovative tools, ideas and/or approaches for the prevention and treatment of pregnant women and newborns in poor, hard-to-reach communities.  The program aims to foster a community of learning and innovation in order to:

1)    Support the development and health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies in low-resource settings;

2)     Develop, refine, and test the impact of solutions that have previously measured promising health outcomes in a limited setting and have the potential for scale-up.

Saving Lives at Birth’s unique approach could only be successfully implemented in today’s interconnected world of Facebook and Twitter.  By using social media to its advantage, thousands of potential solutions are submitted and evaluated, thereby increasing the possibility that a solution to Nigeria’s maternal mortality epidemic is within our grasp.

Sources/Read More:

Maternal Health in Nigeria: With Leadership, Progress is Possible

Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development

Nigeria: Studies Pick Ondo Health Project As Most Promising Cure for Childbirth Deaths

Contraception: Is it Controversial?

These are the key facts that WHO has published in their media centre about family planning:

  • An estimated 222 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.
  • Some family planning methods help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Family planning reduces the need for unsafe abortion.
  • Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children.

Yet, contraception, a key tool for family planning, remains controversial. Melinda Gates speaks about this in her TED Talk:

The Gates Foundation and several other international organizations and donor countries want to make a change to this. The Family Planning Summit in London took place on the World Population Day, Wednesday, 11 July, 2012. The objectives of this summit were to:

  1. Revitalize global commitments to family planning and access to contraceptives as a cost-effective and transformational development priority
  2. Improve the access and distribution of contraceptive supplies
  3. Remove and reduce barriers to family planning

During the summit participants, both developing countries, donors and international development agencies committed a total of $ 4.6 billion to improve access to contraception and voluntary family planning services to 120 million more women by 2020. This is a great step forward in the empowerment of women and improving the status of girls and women in their societies, households, and relationships – giving them the possibility to make empowered and informed choices to take care of themselves and their children.

You can join the commitment to making contraception less controversial.

Sign the pledge and read women’s personal stories here. There is no controversy in contraception.

Want to learn more?