The launching of eleven policy documents on reproductive and maternal health by the Federal Ministry of Health and its partners is heart-warming. The documents are aimed at eliminating all preventable maternal deaths. There is hope that adequate implementation of the new policy can go a long way in curbing child and maternal mortality in Nigeria.
The documents are the National Strategic Framework for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria 2019-2023; Orientation Package for Health Care Providers “FMOH 2018 ANC Model;” Task Shifting/Task Sharing Policy December 2018 and Task Shifting/Task Sharing Standard of Practice, December 2018. The rest include Manual for Training Doctors and Nurses/Midwives on Postpartum Family Planning Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives Methods; Reproductive Health (RH) Wheel; National Guidelines for the Introduction and scale up of DMPA-SC Self Injection, January 2019; and the National Policy on the Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Rights of Persons with Disability with emphasis on Women and Girls.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, explained that the documents would provide policy direction for stakeholders on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health service delivery. He also disclosed that they would also help in addressing pertinent issues relating to gender and rights of persons living with disabilities.
The documents, according to the minister, were designed to address emerging issues and to adopt evidence-based practices that had been implemented to address the sexual and reproductive health challenges of adolescents and women, including persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.
We commend the Federal Government for launching the policy documents. It is a step in the right direction. Over the years, Nigeria has been regarded as one of the most dangerous places on earth for pregnant women, nursing mothers and their children. Nigerians experience maternal and infant deaths at heart-wrenching rates.
According to the report by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria has maternal mortality rate of 560/100,000 live births, which means 33,000 women die each year and one in nine maternal deaths worldwide is a Nigerian.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has made no progress in maternal mortality for 29 years. The country accounts for 14 per cent of global maternal death burden. Infant mortality rate is 75/1,000 live births, which is eight per cent of the global total, and an estimated 70 per cent of these deaths are preventable.
Child mortality rate is 117/1,000, which means one million deaths yearly and accounts for 10 per cent of the global total. One in every eight Nigerian children dies before their fifth birthday, and nearly 10 per cent of newborn deaths occur in Nigeria.
These figures are, no doubt, frightening. Last year, the Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates, described Nigeria as one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the world. He also tagged the country the fourth place with the worst maternal mortality rate, coming after Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad.
It has, therefore, become imperative that the authorities should promptly implement the new policy. We believe that Nigeria could achieve the 27 per cent modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR) target by 2020 if the policy is fully implemented. We urge the Federal and State governments, as well as other stakeholders, to work together in implementing the policy. Government at all levels should prioritise the health of Nigerians, especially the highly vulnerable persons such as children and mothers.
Let the government pay more attention to the welfare and training of healthcare professionals in the country to halt the brain drain in the sector. We urge the federal, state and local governments to adequately equip the healthcare facilities in the country. It is sad that 30,000 primary healthcare facilities across the country are reportedly not functioning optimally.
President Muhammadu Buhari was recently quoted as saying that the development of the health and education sectors would be prioritised in his second term. We urge him to do so.