Nigeria ranks second worst country in maternal, child deaths in latest WHO report

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked Nigeria as the country with the second highest number of maternal, neonatal and child deaths worldwide.

The report made public on Tuesday, May 9, shows Nigeria trailing India as the two leading nations where mothers and their babies are most likely to die.

Eight other countries with high maternal, neonatal and stillbirths are Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The report shows that progress in improving mothers’ and babies’ survival has stagnated since 2015, with around 290,000 maternal deaths occurring yearly.

At least 1.9 million stillbirths occur, and 2.3 million newborns die.

The report titled ‘Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth: Progress Report 2023′, shows that in India, 788 women and children died ‘per thousands’ in 2020, while Nigeria trailed with 540.

In that year, India accounted for 17 per cent of global maternal, neonatal deaths and stillbirths, while Nigeria’s represented 12 per cent.

More women died in Nigeria from pregnancy-related issues than in India and any other country that year. Nigeria lost 82 women ‘per thousands’. 

Apart from India, which had 24 and was the country with the second highest number of maternal deaths, maternal mortality in Nigeria was more than in the remaining seven countries combined (71).

Stillbirths were highest in India (297), Pakistan (207)and Nigeria (181), neonatal deaths were also highest in the three countries – India (468), Nigeria (277) and Pakistan (257).

The report estimates there were a combined 4.5 million maternal, neonatal deaths and stillbirths in 2020.

“Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia are the regions experiencing the largest numbers of deaths, although across all regions, there is variation regarding the pace at which countries are progressing in their efforts to achieve the global 2030 targets. 

“The top 10 countries with the highest-burden account for 60 per cent of global maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths, and 51 per cent of the world’s live births.”

The report notes that global progress in reducing maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths has slowed during the last decade. 

Speaking on the report, WHO said that based on current trends, more than 60 countries might miss the maternal, newborn and stillborn mortality reduction targets in the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

It blamed the crisis on the COVID-19 pandemic, rising poverty, worsening humanitarian and lack of funding by some countries.

Speaking on the report, the Director of the Technical Division at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Julitta Onabanjo, a doctor, said the death of any woman or young girl during pregnancy or childbirth is a violation of their human rights. 

Screenshot of WHO report naming Nigeria as the second country with the worst maternal, neonatal deaths and stillbirths globally
Screenshot of WHO report naming Nigeria as the second country with the worst maternal, neonatal deaths and stillbirths globally

“It also reflects the urgent need to scale up access to quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and primary health care, especially in communities where maternal mortality rates have stagnated or even risen during recent years. 



    “We must take a human rights and gender transformative approach to address maternal and newborn mortality, and it is vital that we stamp out the underlying factors which give rise to poor maternal health outcomes like socio-economic inequalities, discrimination, poverty and injustice” she added.

    In 2017, The ICIR reported how chaotic maternal health policies in Nigeria hurt women.

    On May 5, The ICIR also reported UNFPA advising the country to engage 70,000 more midwives to tackle its maternal and child deaths.

    Multiple reports published by The ICIR, including here and here show the depth of Nigeria’s maternal and child deaths crisis.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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