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Maternal mortality on the rise in Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Caused by unsafe abortion and lack of comprehensive sexuality education.

Researchers, scholars and Public Health experts have lamented the rising death rate that is caused by unsafe abortion in Nigeria, particularly with adolescents. They implore the government to invest in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SHR). Experts, who stated that the health of girls and women (aged 15-49), lost to abortion on a daily basis is worth more than the fund needed for the provision of services and facilities to help them live, affirmed that adolescents should be provided with comprehensive sexual health Education.

The idea of sexual health education was made known by professionals at a special session tagged “The Public Health Challenges of Unintended Pregnancies and Abortion: Global and National Dimension” which was organized by Academy for Health Development (AHEAD), a Non-Governmental Organization in Osun State, in partnership with Guttmacher Institute, New York, USA. This was a part of the Society for Public Health Professionals of Nigeria (SPHPN) 5th Scientific Conference, held in Ikeja at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).

At least 20 women die everyday across the country.

Adesegun Fatusi, a Professor of Community Medicine and Public Health, disclosed at the event that, according to the latest research by the World Health Organization (WHO) report, Nigeria is ranked the country with the highest maternal mortality rate. This is not less than 67,000 women die yearly from pregnancy-related issues in Nigeria. At least 20 women die everyday across the country, with an estimation of 11 percent of deaths caused by abortion. He noted that the situation is troubling and worrisome to the health and population of the country.

However, according to global data, it is apparent that the maternal mortality is caused by unsafe abortion, in contrast to the safe abortion statistics worldwide which has low mortality risk. According to professionals, unsafe abortion is when abortion is conducted by non-medically qualified personnel or the use of inappropriate methods not recommended by WHO. Nevertheless, maternal mortality can be decreased and reversed if the Sexual and Reproductive Health (SHR) needs of women are met by an increase in per capita Investment of $27.15 to the current $3.11.

Unintended birth rate and pregnancy rate are increasing worldwide.

He added that the death of new born babies would reduce by 76 percent; maternal deaths would reduce by 61 percent; unsafe abortion would decrease by 80 percent; abortion would decline by 80 percent and unintended pregnancies would reduce by 80 percent, only if all needs are provided for abortion, new born, maternal and contraceptive care in the country. Dr. Jonathan Bearak, a Senior Research Scientist at Guttmacher Institute, said that a recent survey showed that unintended birth rate and pregnancy rate are increasing worldwide.

During his global review on unintended abortions and pregnancies, he added that the rate of abortion globally were similar where it is or is not prohibited. A physician and Chairman, Management Committee, of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, Dr. Ejike Oji, stated that the rates of unintended abortion and pregnancies are increasing with a rise in maternal mortality in Nigeria. This issue occurs among women who abort pregnancies they were unable to prevent. The greatest complication of unsafe pregnancy is due to infertility.

Comprehensive sexuality education is important.

Elizabeth Alatu-Williams, the National Coordinator of African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development, affirmed that unintended pregnancies are caused by engagement in unprotected sex by adolescents which eventually lead to unsafe abortion. She added that comprehensive sexuality education is important. This Empowerment equips them with life skills regarding self-independence, abstinence from sex, assertiveness, values, self-esteem and goal-setting. Teachers, parents, religious leaders, government and other relevant stakeholders were urged by participants at the conference to provide safe spaces for adolescents to be protected from maternal mortality and to make right decisions for themselves.


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