Time to end preventable maternal deaths in Nigeria

It is often said that ‘pregnancy is not a disease’, but this maxim doesn’t chime with the reality in Nigeria. While pregnancy in itself may not be a disease in Nigeria, the health system that should take care of our expectant mothers is afflicted with a chronic, debilitating disease. Yes, a lethal pestilence that has been killing expectant mothers with stealth, stubborn consistency and in staggering numbers.

The labour room should not be a theatre of fear; sadly in Nigeria, the approach of the EDD (Estimated Date of Delivery) often triggers a disconcerting spectre. Would she return? Would mother and child be fine in the end? Often times the family Pastor (or other religious leader) is engaged to ramp up his intercession. Friends and family are also enlisted to join in supplication. Celestial forces are implored to supervise proceedings in the labour room.
When an expectant mother is set to put to bed in Nigeria, heaven gets a comprehensive memo. And when she does –successfully-the first feeling is usually one of ‘relief’ before ‘joy’.
Attend ‘child dedication services’ in Nigerian churches and you would hear effusive words of gratitude to God for a safe delivery. Brethren take turns to congratulate the “sister”, ostensibly for emerging from the lion’s den unscathed. The sense of relief and survival is palpable. This reaction is wholly understandable given that the road to a labour room in Nigeria is strewn with manifold (man-made) thorns.
But should childbirth be an enormously dangerous undertaking (in 2017) given the advances in medical science?

Well, the answer depends on the country where the question is posed. In developed nations like the United Kingdom (that records an average of 9 deaths in 100,000 live births), the answer, of course, would be a resounding “NO”! But according to the World Bank’s 2015 maternal mortality records, perhaps the answer should be “YES” in Nigeria (as at 2015, Nigeria’s maternal mortality ratio stood at 814 per 100,000 live births. Afghanistan fared better – 396 per 100,000 live births. South Africa’s number is 138).
Death is inevitable, but death from childbirth-related causes is not. This is why the outrage that follows the loss of an expectant mother is wholly justified. But it appears that our collective outrage never translates to positive action. Rather, our outrage is of the fatalistic stripe. You can predict the cycle:
The tragic news breaks, there is an outpouring of condolences. Prayers are offered (in various tongues) for the soul of the departed, and wellbeing of the infant (if he or she survives). We remind the grieving family that “our thoughts are with them” and conclude with the famous Nigerian mantra: “it is well”. We may also quote some verses from the book of Job, reminding the grieving spouse that God sometimes allows calamities to befall good men “for it is in adversity that strength is born”.
Then we move on. Well, until another mother becomes a statistic. We rinse and repeat same ‘pity routine’.
But for bereaved families, there is no respite. The pain never goes away. The vacuum remains unfilled forever. For the infant who lost his or her mother, the joys of a mother’s cuddle is something they will never experience. The sweetness of a mother’s love will never be savoured.
No child should begin life this way.
The cost of an absent mother also transcends the emotional. The absence of a mother may alter the trajectory of a child’s life for ill. This is especially likely in cases where no “mother figure” steps in to groom, counsel and guide.
Read autobiographies of Barack Obama and Dr Ben Carson, and you’ll glean the potency of a mother’s influence. Who knows the number of Nigerians who ended up in prison or failed to get an education because their mother died from childbirth-related causes. Without a doubt, our society becomes poorer every time we lose an expectant mother.
It’s about time we stopped this spreading cancer that has broken many hearts and shattered many homes.
It’s about time we conducted a far-reaching assessment to determine the drivers of maternal mortality in Nigeria. I’m not proposing the creation of a committee whose report would recommend that another committee be set up.
Read more at https://www.thecable.ng/time-end-preventable-maternal-deaths-nigeria

Release Date: 
Sunday, May 21, 2017