Thursday, February 07, 2013

No woman should lose her life, giving life… #IRP13

Mrs. Bello has been bleeding since. End of story.

Let's go back to the beginning.

A true-life story is told about a pregnant woman (whom I'll refer to as Mrs. Bello) who did not realize her pregnancy has gone past nine months. It was not until her neighbour offered to introduce her to a local nurse that she realized she was long overdue for labour.

Mrs. Bello is an impoverished petty trader with no adequate finances to access basic medical services.

Nurse T offered to induce labour, using a common method to force the baby out. A few injections. Nothing happened.

Now, everyone was worried: Mrs Bello and her husband, the woman who recommended the nurse, Nurse T.

A scan result shows the foetus (fetus) has changed position. In a lame man's language, he is now sitting down instead of being in the usual upside-down position, perhaps wondering why he is still in his mother's womb.

After a few days, Nurse T offered to take Mrs. Bello to a cheap hospital.

Mr. Bello had to raise funds quickly. But he was unable to raise the amount the hospital requested.

The doctor admitted Mrs. Bello after a series of negotiations. He slashed the hospital bill in half so that they can be attended to--a favor the organization and all concerned would later regret.

No one remembered to ask how qualified this doctor was.

Armed with his instruments, the doctor started operating on Mrs. Bello. But something went wrong. The fetus did not make it out alive. The mother bled. The bleeding did not stop even after the doctor and nurses cleaned her up.

Mrs. Bello's husband goes berserk. He reports the case to the nearest police station. Everyone trades blame. The report of the doctor ranks superior to others. He says the complications were caused by the induction Nurse T used on Mrs. Bello. In a bizarre move, the policemen assigned to the case arrest the neighbour who first recommended the first nurse to Mrs. Bello.

After being released on bail, the woman is asked to pay for all the medical expenses incurred by Mrs. Bello, who just lost her child at birth.

Thankfully, the mother of four is still alive, although in a critical condition.

This is what poverty and lack of information expose pregnant women to every day in this part of the world.

Experts say Nigeria's maternal and child health statistics are some of the worst in the world. As of the end of 2012, the maternal mortality ratio was placed at 1,120 per 100,000 live births.

No woman should lose her life in giving life. No child should lose his or her life at birth!

I agree with Dr. Jimmy Arigbabuwo, who  has said:

"If a pregnant woman undergoes good ante-natal programme, doctors would have identified if her baby will develop complications at birth and they can refer her to the appropriate quarters. We must ensure that no pregnancy is wasted."

Dr. Jimmy Arigbabuwo is the Chairman (Lagos state) of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria. He is very optimistic that the alarming rate of incessant maternal and child mortality rate can be curbed with the right medical equipments.

However, what's the use of having a world-class medical facility without well-trained medical practitioners? The best hands, found in government-funded hospitals, are checking out of the country for greener pastures, a new report reveals. They are not happy with the working conditions in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, we are faced with the challenges of poor medical services, lack of skills and some people's unwillingness even to access the services that are available.

The executive director of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin recently tweeted that African leaders have agreed to intensify the fight against maternal death. But how much of these efforts and resources will trickle down to the likes of Mrs. Bello at the bottom of the pyramid?

Government and politicians can change things
Perhaps, while we work at keeping the government leaders accountable, we can also tackle this challenge at different levels.

For example, government leaders at the state and local level can emulate Mr. Daniel Asuquo, who recently committed to financing the treatment of patients in his constituency. Mr. Asuquo is a member of the House of Representative. He represents Akamkpa-Biase Federal Constituency of Cross River State.

But his is an annual event. Maybe others can make such contributions more frequently? Imagine what free monthly antenatal care would do for this generation! Women like Mrs Bello deserve access to such free medical services.

Collaboration is key
NGOs and other stakeholders can collaborate to sponsor medical practitioners on trainings that would improve their skills. An example can be seen in what Kwara State government and UNICEF did recently.

The Punch newspaper reports that in an effort to reduce maternal-child mortality, UNICEF spent about N7m for training and mobilisation of health workers across the 16 LGAs, while the state government spent about N8m. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency supplied the consumables during the Pregnant Women and Child Week that was inaugurated in the state.

Integrity at the clinic
Health care providers in Nigeria need to step up. They should stop toying with the lives of their patients. If they are not qualified to take on a medical case, they should be honest enough to say so and transfer the case to more qualified doctors. They should also seek to improve the quality of paediatric and maternal care offered in their clinics and hospitals. Nurses should desist from corrupt practices, such as hoarding a patient's medications for their own selfish reasons. 

Personal responsibility
The rest of us must take personal responsibility. Nothing will change if no one changes anything. Or what do you think?

This story was first published on

About the author: Jennifer Ehidiamen is a Senior Reporter and Media Trainer at Global Press Institute (GPI). She is reporting on health and development in Nigeria with a grant from the International Reporting Project in Washington, D.C

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