Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Economic Meltdown and Maternal Mortality

Today the entire world seems to be thrown into a state of panic over the present global economic meltdown. All countries of the world are talking about it and strategising on how to get out of the worst in no time. However, one begins to wonder why this is getting this much attention . The answer may not be far fetched. Aside from every other guesses, one salient fact why we have such a rapid and “sincere” response to address the issue of global economic meltdown is because it affects men directly.

The above assertion is based on the fact that despite the alarming rate at which women die while trying to give life (that is during pregnancy, childbirth or 42 days after pregnancy), governments of the world still remain silent on the issue. Even when something seems to be done, it ends up being a policy without a political will. Today, it is estimated that 6.8 million pregnancies occur each year in Nigeria with about 63% ending in planned birth, 10% in mistimed or unwanted births, 16% in miscarriage and 11% in induced abortion amounting to 760,000 induced abortions occurring in Nigeria annually. While considering these facts on the one hand, on the other hand it is equally pertinent to avert our mind to the fact that 1/3 (one in three) of maternal deaths is caused by abortion and 25% (that is, 1 out 4 women in this category) die from abortion complications every year (Facts deduced from “Unsafe Abortion: The silent Killer” by The Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancy).

Furthermore, the world Health Organisation (WHO) puts maternal mortality ratio at 1,100 to 100,000 life births while the Federal Ministry of Health puts it at 800 to 100,000 life births. However, some practitioners still posit that both figures are under estimated. Beyond the figures, the issue remains that women are dying in the process of giving life. Unfortunately, Nigeria, being the giant of Africa, remains a giant heavily hit by death which could have been avoided as she finds herself in a situation where in every one hour 6 women are lost to complications arising from pregnancy.

Despite the above facts, Nigeria is still deeply rooted in the “denial culture”. While induced abortion continues to cause maternal death still we deny its existence. Maternal mortality is also on the increase, because getting contraception is difficult, the primary health care system is weak and there is little or no sincerity in government policies at addressing this issue.
Maternal mortality, most likely, would have been long dealt with by a radical approach if men also directly experienced it (possibly in form of paternal mortality). Concrete results would have been achieved if men also experienced pregnancy and complications arising.. There would have been progressive laws and adequate funds for tackling this silent killer. However, this first proposition is impossible at least given the human biological nature.

Thus, it is pertinent to look at practical ways of reducing maternal mortality. Firstly, there must be conscious effort of all and sundry geared at improving upon family planning services and increasing the knowledge base of women on the proper use of contraceptives including emergency contraceptives pills. Secondly, poverty and illiteracy level of women must be looked into. Sexuality (Family Life) education should be incorporated into secondary school curriculum. Thirdly, abortion care services should be made safer and the laws reformed. Also, the media should make positive effort at disseminating clear message on the need to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. More importantly, men should be educated about their sexual and reproductive health responsibility to their wives, partners, and daughters and so on. Lastly, a situation where a girl who gets pregnant is sent out of school and never readmitted to school while the boy who had impregnated her remains in school is not proper. The girl should be given an opportunity to return to school after child birth.

The above not withstanding, women, aside from children, are the worse affected by the economic meltdown. Given the situation where a lot of women live below poverty level (that is, less than $1 a day) and now compounded by the present global economic meltdown, the purchasing power of women even to assess contraceptive is further inhibited. Therefore there is need to look at making contraceptive not just available to women but also available to women free of charge. It is worthy to note also that the proper use of contraception by women would also help the country in its population control with a rather bad growth rate of 2.8%.
Saving the lives of our women is our responsibility as a nation. Save the life of a woman, save the nation from going into extinction some day.

*Lucky Kawe

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