Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Four million lives lost yearly, says report

About four million women and children can be saved every year in Nigeria if simple, cost-effective health interventions reach the remotest communities, a new report by the Nigeria Academy of Science has shown.

The report shows how deaths of mothers, newborns and children under-five can be reduced by two-thirds through simple and cost effective interventions.

The ‘Science in Action’ report, presented in collaboration with an international nongovernmental organization, Save the Children U.K, ,shows that almost 4 million African women, newborns and children need not die each year if already well known interventions reached 90 per cent of families.

“This Science in Action’, we believe, will make the government appreciate what is going on,” says the president of the Nigeria Academy of Science, Oye Ibidapo-Obe. “Nigeria accounts for the highest number of newborn deaths and you will be surprised at the number we lose due to negligence of our health system.” The report shows that 1.2 million newborns die in a year in sub-Saharan Africa, amounting to 13,000 newborns daily. Of these deaths, Nigeria accounts for 283,000, followed by Kenya (51,000), Uganda (44,000), Ghana (23,000), Cameroun (21,000), South Africa (19,000) and Senegal (16,000).

Causes of death include babies born before term (preterm babies)- which accounts for 25 per cent of all deaths; sepsis/pneumonia 28 per cent; deaths associated with care during labour, 24 per cent; congenital causes, six per cent; and tetanus, six per cent.

The report says if effective health interventions such as immunizations, use of insecticide treated bed-nets, essential equipment for obstetrics care and others are integrated into existing health services, it could reduce the deaths by two-thirds.

“That is why we are sensitizing our politicians to make the money available so that we will reduce what we are seeing in these graphs by two-thirds, with these simple interventions,” the Country Director of Save the Children, Hussein Mursal said.

More facilities needed

The Head of Child Health Division of the Federal Ministry of Health, Nkeiru Onuekwusi, says the Ministry has been able to close some gaps but most of the available interventions still do not reach the communities.

“In our visit to one of the states, we discover that one of the problems we are experiencing is that we have too many health facilities that are not functioning. And instead of making it work by providing skilled manpower, we build new ones,” she said.

By Abiose Adelaja

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