Thursday, 15 November 2007

Failure of CEDAW, NIRH bills passage retrogressive

Dr. (Sir) John Okaro, President, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON)

Failure Of CEDAW, National Institute of Reproductive Health Bills Malicious And Retrogressive---SOGON

THURSDAY November 15, 2007 BENIN, NIGERIA ----The failure of the National Institute of Reproductive Health (NIRH) and the CEDAW Bills at the Nigerian legislative houses has been described as malicious and retrogressive in view of the fact that these bills would have started a marked reduction in the number of women who die in Nigeria due to pregnancy-related complications and their natural roles as women. Though Nigeria contributes only 2% of the world population, she contributes up to 10%of the deaths of women who die from pregnancy with an estimated 53,000 dying every year!

Prof (Sir) John Okaro, President of the Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Nigeria (SOGON) made this assertion, Wednesday at the Pre-Conference Press briefing of the 41st Scientific conference and AGM of the Society. According to him, the failure of passage of the National Institute of Reproductive Health (NIRH) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), both women-friendly Bills would make the Nigerian statistics on maternal and neonatal deaths remain unacceptably high because of the misconception that the bills will promote abortion.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations, while the National Institute of Reproductive Health (NIRH) sought to promote the reproductive health of the vulnerable –all women. The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life -- including the right to vote and to stand for election -- as well as education, health and employment. State parties agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.

The 41st SOGON scientific conference kicked off yesterday Wednesday 14, 2007 in the ancient city of Benin in Nigeria, with the body calling on the media to wake up to its responsibility of educating the Nigerian masses with the view of reducing the three delays that lead to maternal mortality in Nigeria. His words, ‘the press is the bulwark of the future of the Nigerian women, and thus the future of Nigeria. Only the effective partnering of the Press with the medical professional associations would bring about the needed change amongst the populace and even among policy makers.’

Prof. Ladipo, Executive Director AFRH Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria

Professor Ladipo, Executive Director of Association for Reproductive and Family Health Ibadan, reiterated that only the proper understanding of the three delays by all would lead to a reduction in the deaths of Nigerian women during pregnancy. The Press should educate Nigerians about the delays at home, delay in getting to a health facility and the delay in accessing medical care at the facility. According to him, ‘Addressing these delays require that we provide appropriate education to our people, and we raise their level of confidence in the health system, then at the same time, make provision for community midwives who will reside at the communities to be available and skilled. A lot more still needs to be done from the point of view of improving the man power, improving the commodity supply, ensuring that electricity is regular, ensuring that water supply is regularly available, and ensuring that the morale of the health workers themselves is improved.’

Professor Emmanuel Dipo Otolorin, Country Director of ACCESS Nigeria called for more political commitment towards issues that concern women and children from the Nigerian polity. He called on the political leaders to take necessary steps that would ensure that posterity remembers them for good, by making statements and taking the actions to implement them. According to him, ‘Leadership should not be about oneself and the gains for one’s family, it should be about what I helped other people to achieve, what legacies I was able to put in place that would make people to remember me for good.’

The fact that about 53,000 women die annually in Nigeria is a grim realty that Nigeria policy makers have not firmly grasped in the past. These women die mainly from complications during pregnancy and delivery which include excessive bleeding after delivery, sepsis, pregnancy associated high blood pressure, anaemia, malaria and unsafe abortion. Most of these deaths are preventable if the society is better enlightened, social amenities in place and the health system given a boost of motivated personnel, drug supply and the right equipment to handle emergency obstetric complications.

The SOGON Conference is a 4-day event with the main theme being Intersectorial collaboration for improving maternal and Neo-natal Health, while the Subthemes are Prevention of Cervical Cancer, Post-partum Haemorhage.

*Reported by Nnenna Ike

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