The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently released a report revealing Nigeria as the second country globally with the highest number of maternal, neonatal and child deaths. The report shows that India has the highest rate, accounting for 17% of global maternal, neonatal deaths and stillbirths, while Nigeria is second, accounting for 12% with 540 women and children dying “per thousands” in 2020.
Eight other countries also have high maternal, neonatal and stillbirth rates, including Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The report, titled “Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth: Progress Report 2023”, reveals that maternal and infant mortality rates in Nigeria have stagnated since 2015, with approximately 290,000 maternal deaths occurring annually. Shockingly, more women died from pregnancy-related issues in Nigeria than in India or any other country in 2020, with 82 women dying per thousand.
The WHO warned that over 60 countries might miss the maternal, newborn, and stillborn mortality reduction targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, based on current trends. The report attributes the crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing poverty, worsening humanitarian conditions and inadequate funding from some countries.
Nigeria must take swift action to improve maternal health and curb the rising maternal and infant mortality rates. Improved health care services, especially maternal and child health care, as well as better access to quality family planning services, will be critical in addressing the issue. There is also a need for governments and relevant stakeholders to invest more in health infrastructure, recruit more healthcare personnel, and increase funding to support initiatives aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.
It’s time to prioritize maternal health in Nigeria and other affected countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Unless the necessary steps are taken, the lives of millions of women and children remain at risk