In Nigeria, pregnancy and childbirth complications kill one woman every ten minutes. Majority of these women's deaths could be prevented by access to quality reproductive health.
Nigeria has an estimated 3.3 million internally displaced persons, out of which 53% are females. My first contact with Internally Displaced Women was during my project as an EmpowerWomen Champion for Change at the KarmaJiji IDP Camp. These women have lost their means of livelihood and they live on the goodwill of others. Listening to the women was terrifying as they recounted their experiences of living in the same village with terrorists for days or weeks seeing people butchered; children and relatives lost. These women are from the most affected states of Borno and Adamawa while a few are from Zamfara State.
Responding to questions about their livelihood and integration into their host communities, it was gathered that the women have limited or no access to reproductive health facilities despite being pregnant or nursing mothers. They have limited information on their reproductive health and there is no health facility within the camp. The only one around is located in another displacement camp about two kilometres from Karmajiji.
The community relies on the services of the Chairman who owns a pharmacy while pregnant women rely on the traditional birth attendants who usually do not have the experience to handle childbirth- related complications. Cervical and breast cancer are news to most of the women.
My relationship with this group of women exposed me to the need for increased sensitization, access and infrastructure for rural women's reproductive health. The patriarchal nature of the society encourages male dominance in the reproductive health issues of women; a man who opposes child spacing may forbid his wife from going to any health facility for reproductive health issues. During the various engagements with these women, it was gathered that they are often vulnerable to health risks due to lack of health services to meet their sexual and reproductive health needs. Women in these areas face greater risks during pregnancy and childbirth as a result of limited access to reproductive health facilities.
In order to ensure adequate access to reproductive health for displaced women, quality maternal health care facilities which include information and services for family planning, prenatal care, delivery and post-natal care; prevention and management of complications of abortions; health care for women and infants; and prevention and treatment of infertility and sexually transmitted diseases should be provided at each displacement camp.
Reproductive health information should be intensified with the use of visuals and aids to facilitate easy understanding even for illiterate women. Primary health care centres should be provided at each camp to reduce the time taken to get to the healthcare facility in times of emergencies while granting more decision making power to women to make decisions about their reproductive health.
The centres should be well equipped with equipment and information dissemination intensified for both men and women as men have been identified as a major factor in women's reproductive care decision making. There should be effective training for traditional birth attendants while sensitizing women on the need to abstain from traditional health practices that affect their reproductive life.