By Chioma Obinna

It is indisputable that Nigerian women are dying before, during and after childbirth. The lamentation of unnecessary loss of lives has been on for decades now, almost soundinglike a broken record. Everyday, several Nigerian women go into the battle of giving birth to children and not many come out to tell the happy story. In fact, statistics from relevant sources have it that maternal mortality in Nigeria is not only alarmingly high but one of the highest in the world.

Nigeria needs about 1.4 million units of blood, unfortunately, only 54,392,000 are generated from its 17 fully operational centres across the six geo-political zones of the country.

Every 10 minutes, a Nigerian woman dies as a result of complications of pregnancy or childbirth and hundreds of thousands more are disabled in birth related accidents every year. Unfortunately, one of the major identified causes of maternal death in the country today, haemorrhage, popularly known as bleeding is yet to be addressed holistically.

Many women who suffer haemorrhage in pregnancy related conditions die within 24 to 48 hours of child delivery.

Annually, 585,000 women die of pregnancy related complications and 99 percent of these deaths due to haemorrhage occur in developing countries like Nigeria.  Statistics available also showed that Nigeria accounts for a disproportionate 10 percent of global maternal deaths and has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developing world – accounting for the second highest global burden of maternal deaths in the world next to India.

With the alarming deaths as a result of haemorrhage, medical experts are saying that that a robust blood bank system will drastically reduce the 23 percent of maternal deaths cause by haemorrhage in the country. In the views of a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr. Oluwarotimi Ireti Akinola tackling the challenge due to bleeding in maternal health has been hampered due to non availability of functional blood banking system in the country.

Establishing a blood banking system is key to reducing maternal deaths caused by haemorrhage. WHO has maintained that providing safe and adequate supplies of blood and blood products should be an integral part of every country’s efforts to improve maternal health. Studies have shown that safe blood transfusion is one of the key life-saving interventions that should be available in all facilities that provide emergency obstetric care.

Unfortunately, equitable access to safe blood for obstetric care still remains a major challenge, contributing to high maternal mortality in the country. According to the Zonal Coordinator, North Central, National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), Jos, Plateau State, Dr. Ayodele Bolorunduro, rtd, Nigeria will require approximately 1.4 million units of blood annually. Unfortunately, the total number generated today is unknown due to the plurality of sources and poor retirement of returns to the National Blood Service.

The figures that can be correctly captured are the unit processed by the National Blood Service, which is 54,392,000 from its 17 fully operational stand-alone blood centres spread across the six geo-political zones of the country. Akinola who is also the 1st Vice President of the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, SOGON, also lamented the unacceptable high maternal mortality rate in the country.

According to him, the national maternal mortality rate by the National Demographic, NDHS, in 2013 which showed 576 per 100,000 live births is unacceptably high when compared to350/100,000 and 400/100,000 in Ghana and Benin Republic respectively over the same period of time.

Describing maternal mortality as a global tragedy during a Civil Society Media Forum on Maternal Health Accountability under the NOTAGAIN Campaign Project Supported by the MacArthur Foundation in Lagos recently, he stressed that provision of adequate blood facilities as well as increasing number of blood donors in the country would reduce the number of women dying during child births.

He urged Nigerians to adopt the culture of voluntary blood donation as a measure of ensuring blood availability for patients in pregnancy related conditions. Akinola reasoned that haemorrhage has been killing women not because pregnant women in Nigeria are more prone to bleeding but the deaths are as a result of lack of appropriate facilities to address haemorrhage.

“Only a few health facilities in the country have equipment that can produce blood parts. Some women in pregnancy related condition bleed to the extent that their blood will stop clothing. What is required at that stage is parts of blood, not blood itself, but how many health centres can provide blood components in this country?

“If facilities and blood products are more available, medical professionals will try everything to reduce blood loss in women, take measures to prevent bleeding and when bleeding happens, they must be skilful enough to know what to do to stop it.” Also in his presentation, ‘Mitigating Maternal Health Challenges in Lagos State’, Chairman of Primary Healthcare (PHC) Board in the Lagos, Dr. Babatunde Sagoe, identified inadequate blood transfusion services at the secondary and tertiary centres in Lagos as one of the major factors fuelling maternal deaths.



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