Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Minister Tasks Religious Leaders On Maternal, Child Mortality

Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Acting minister of health, Dr. Hassan Muhammad has urged religious leaders across the country to drive Nigeria’s quest to reduce the abysmally high maternal and child deaths in the country.

The minister gave this charge on Tuesday, at the opening session of the third Religious Leaders Consultative Forum organized by the Federal Ministry of Health holding in Abuja Nigeria. An interfaith forum is to be formed at the end of the Abuja meeting on Wednesday.

This forum, which is sequel to two previous editions held in 2005 and 2006 would look at recommendations on how faith based organizations could be used to address the problem of maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.

“This forum will serve as an advisory committee on maternal and child mortality situation in Nigeria and relate with the government in design, implementation and monitoring of all health care policies and interventions,” the minister said.

Hassan identified the Christian and Muslim faiths as two religious bodies that make serious impressions on their subjects, hence a veritable tool for addressing the problem of maternal and child mortalities.

The minister took a swipe at religious leaders who inadvertently spread misleading messages among their subjects about certain measures meant to curb the high maternal and child deaths in Nigeria. According to him such messages, when heeded to, left the subjects in worse health conditions as is the case with the survival of the child and the mother.

He cited the rejection of immunization in some parts of the country as an unfortunate scenario resulting from misleading messages from some religious leaders thereby causing the number of women dying from causes related to child births to be on the high. This he said has also caused many children to die as well.

Hassan related the low level of immunization and use of modern family methods to erroneous religious beliefs and said people who spread such messages are not being true to the dictates of their respective religions.

“In the middle whole of Saudi Arabia, where Prophet Mohammed was born, Iran, and other Islamic countries of repute, there is no polio. This is because they abide by immunization as a means of enhancing child survival, yet some people say it is irreligious to come out for immunization,” he said.

Similarly, Nigeria Director of Ipas, an organization dedicated to promoting reproductive health, Dr. Ejike Oji, stated that churches in Nigeria are also contributing to the spate of high deaths from child births.

Ejike, who spoke at the forum, noted that many pastors have taken over the duties of obstetricians and gynecologists, despite lacking the expertise and trainings to handle childbirth and its related conditions.

“Churches and pastors are taking over the role of obstetricians and gynecologists. They now deliver so many women of their babies without referring to trained services. This must be checked,” Oji said in an address he acknowledged was intended to elicit actions from the minister.

Meanwhile, the minister has said the ongoing forum is intended to use religious leaders as very influential tools in the society to reduce the incidence of maternal and child deaths in Nigeria.

* By Onche Odeh

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