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FG urged to end detention of women in hospitals nationwide

…as Folake Oduyoye is finally laid to rest

BY JOSEPHINE AGBONKHESE

The Federal Government has been urged to show more commitment towards reducing maternal mortality by ending all forms of detention concerning maternal healthcare bills in hospitals nationwide.

This call came at a rally/lecture on maternal mortality which preceded the final burial of Folake Oduyoye, a 35-year-old mother of four who allegedly died of pulmonic complications in December 2014, while in detention at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital- LUTH in Lagos over inability to offset a N1.5 million bill.

Recall that late Folake had been in detention for 43 days while her husband, a small-scale printer, went in search of money to no avail. He later pleaded to be allowed to pay in instalments but was said by the Acting Chief Medical Director of LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, to have provided no worthy guarantor.

The rally which took off early Thursday morning at the entrance gate of the teaching hospital comprised hundreds of men and woman who chanted songs of solidarity, condemning LUTH’s inhumanity and the Nigerian government’s laissez-faire attitude towards issues of maternal health.

Women’s rights activist cum Executive Director of the Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre-WARDC, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, who, at the rally, gave LUTH a 14-day ultimatum to declare and release all women still in detention, as well as compensate the Oduyoyes or face legal action, spoke with eyes full of tears at the lecture.

“Nigeria accounted for 25 per cent of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. We are calling on government to reduce the number of women who die needlessly because an estimated 144 women loss their lives daily. Government must show political will, especially in the coming budget.

“In fact, with the kind of fund and budget Nigeria already has, this should not be happening. Our government claims to be very committed to the Millennium Development Goals-MDG and MDG-5 addresses the issue of maternal health. We are also aware that through the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Nigeria is collecting a lot of money to support women in hospitals.

“So, we are using Folake’s case to demonstrate a whole lot of cases because this is the norm almost all around the country. We have news from UBTH in Benin, Enugu and more. This is one reason many women go to traditional birth attendants; they know they will be detained if they cannot pay their bills.

“Folake Oduyoye will not die in vain because she is representing every Nigerian woman who should not be allowed to die in this manner.

Besides, Section 35 of the constitution is very clear; the only authority that can detain anyone is the court,” Dr Abiola said.

 


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