Maternal Health

tina armstrong-ogbonna
Posted April 2, 2013 from Nigeria

Close to Home

At the beginning of the year, I have been close to people who lost their loved ones in the course of childbirth.

The first was a friend's cousin who went into comma after childbirth at the famous Lagos University Teaching Hospital LUTH, she died after a month leaving behind husband, children, among other family members.

The other person was a stylist in a salon who died while giving birth to her fourth child. The painful part was that she was under thirty years and already has three children. She died with the baby as she could not be delivered of the baby.

As I pondered over these deaths I could not but ponder how close maternal and child deaths are for all women even though I was not related to the victims directly. Yet in all of these where lost, families devastated, life time memories gone with the pain as these women fought till the end.

The needless deaths of women and children continued despite global efforts since 2000 when world leaders agreed to improve the standard of living of the common man, through the eight millennium development goals, MDG's.

For Jude Osaze "when I hear the statistics of women who dies during childbirth in Nigeria, I doubt the statistics and wonder, how they came about such exaggerated record. But am now convinced that more women are lose there lives during child birth. Do you know that in some rural communities, women patronize traditional birth attendants and some of these births and deaths are not documented,he added.

The story of Yomi Pearse was agonizing. "I lost my wife during child birth even after all the antenatal and precautions taken to prevent her from dying. But alas! my dear wife died given birth. The baby survived but my precious wife is gone. Every time I looked at that child I tried to regret getting her pregnant but that was meant to be our last child because we agreed on having three kids. Atinuike struggled till she could not fight any longer. She lost so much blood after delivering the baby and we had to buy six pints of blood but all to no avail. She died with a smile on her face. I wept day and night for weeks but it did not bring back my baby girl, he said with pain on his face.

Some culture pride having many children as a big deal. Among the Mbaise people of Imo state, when a woman gives birth to twelve children, she is celebrated by killing a goat/cow for her. Depending on the wealth of the family. With the harsh economic realities and poor state of our health facilities, will a woman risk her life in the name of cultural celebration?

In as much as the Holy Book said multiply and fill the earth,now men should consider many factors before getting their wives pregnant. I also know of a school of thought that believes that children brings progress and success.

My parents named me Uzoma which according to my mum was because my birth ushered in economic advancement for my dad. My mum said that my dad bought his first Peugeot car after my birth.

As Africans,in as much as we hold strongly to our belief system, should we sacrifice our sisters,daughters,wives,in-laws,cousins,nieces in the name of childbearing? When it is obvious that the odds are against a lady getting pregnant and having safe delivery.

The God-factor is inevitable when miracles happen, when a lady could have been written off by science and medicine.

But daily, many lives are lost during childbirth across Nigeria. The only reason we might not know or feel it, is because it is not "close to home" I.e. that loved one who died was not our immediate relatives.

It is now a common trend for most Nigerians that can afford to pay for efficient and reliable healthcare facility to go abroad for child delivery. Apart from the fact that it could be done for the child to have dual citizenship, many do it to avoid stories that touched according to our Nigerian comedians. Millions of Naira are lost annually as Nigerians keep patronizing these foreign hospitals.

I know of a friend who gave up suing a hospital for the death of his sister during childbirth because according to him the more the case was drags in court, the more i get frustrated and the pain increased knowing justice was eluding us, he said. This is the Nigerian environment for you.

How committed are our government officials to fight towards improving maternal care?

Sometime last year I sat in a committee to determine the fate of our women as regard safe delivery and I saw that politics was more important than the improvement of maternal care and child mortality.

I will sing the praises of Governor Segun Mimiko who established a specialist hospital to ensure safe delivery. The Abiye hospital which, I visited last year in Akure Ondo state, is to improve maternal health and reduce child mortality.

In the hearts of many mothers in Ondo state, that they are able to give birth safely due to the Abiye project cannot be erased in a lifetime.

It is time for more government actions in ensuring that our healthcare facilities are worthy of receiving new lives during childbirth and not snuff out lives from both mother and child.

May a death "close to home" of a woman dying during childbirth not bring the realities, that one in ten women loss their lives during child birth.

Safe delivery is the right of every woman in Nigeria and not a trial and error incident that has now become a testimony in our places of worship.

eMagazine: Maternal Health

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