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Child and maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is ‘like having 10 plane crashes every day’

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Nigeria, Katsina. October-November 2009. Turai Jaradua maternal and children Hospital. A mother with her baby with spina-bafida malformation at the special baby care unit. She gave birth at home and then came to hospital to look after her new baby born. Every year about 9 million children before the age of 5 die from conditions that can easily be prevented. About 11,000 children are born daily in Nigeria. Nigeria has the highest number of newborn deaths in the whole Africa.
Presenting a keynote address at the ongoing National Health Dialogue in Abuja, Shuaib likened the situation to having 10 plane crashes in the country every day.

The dialogue aims to bring major stakeholders in the health sector to brainstorm on ways of improving the quality of healthcare delivery.

According to Shuaib, the objective of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as mapped out by the World Health Assembly in 2005, is also in line with the Number 3 article of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to promote healthy well-being for all people of all ages.

In trying to achieve this, governments must ensure easy access to quality healthcare at a very affordable cost.

“But the current reality in Nigeria is the fact that every single day, 30,000 women and children die from preventable causes,” he said.

“That is not Universal Health Coverage; that is the reality that we live in, which is that our women are dying. It’s almost like having 10 plane crashes every day.

“I’ve been on the job for seven months and I’ve been saying this from Day 1, 10 plane crashes every single day but it never makes headlines. But this is the reality that we live in. The indices for maternal mortality, child mortality, infant mortality are there.”

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Shuaib said this is the case because we of challenges on both the supply and the demand side.

“On the supply side we have issues with the quality of healthcare that we provide. We have problems and challenges with access, equity.

“But on the demand side s well, even where these health facilities exist, community members do not access them for one reason or the other.”

Shuaib said his agency was working in conjunction with state governments towards a project titled ‘Primary healthcare under one roof’.

He said the project is aimed at doing away with the “fragmented and multiple management structures, which result in poor provision of services”.

Shuaib further said the ministry of health had directed that one PHC be upgraded, first in each of the six geo-political zones of the country, then in each local government, and then in each political ward.

“We are working with our development partners and the private sector to identify 20 women in each ward, who will be trained over the course of three months to provide simple first-line interventions,” he said.

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“We identified that women and children die every day in our communities and why they die; in a lot of instances, it is because of delay in deciding to seek healthcare, delay in reaching care and delay in receiving adequate care.

“So what the health promoters will be doing is to reduce the number of deaths in women and children. Once these women are identified and trained and rolled out in the communities, they go to the  different households on a daily basis and knock on different doors and check for anyone that my be ill so that they can provide care before the patient gets worse.”

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