By Chioma Obinna
Access to healthcare in low-income households remains a formidable challenge in Nigeria. For instance, for every 100,000 pregnant women in Nigeria, 576 die due to birth complications, including lack of skilled attendants and poor health facilities. A woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is one in 13 compared to one in 1750 for developed countries; one in 870 in East Asia, one in 90 in Latin America and one in 24 (Africa).
The vast majority of these deaths occur in rural areas where healthcare services and resources are limited. Yet these unacceptable figures could be turn around if these women either give birth in a nearby health facility and not homes, attended to by skilled attendants, and have the right means of transportation and good roads.
According to the World Bank, more than 74 per cent of maternal deaths could be prevented if all women had access to interventions that address complications in pregnancy and childbirth
However, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for some states in Nigeria, like Ondo, where maternal death has been criminalised and health given priority. Today, the state government believes that every Ondo citizen has the right to not just access healthcare but also good- quality healthcare services and all obstacles that endanger the life of a mother and her unborn baby addressed. The chances of a pregnant woman delivering her baby with the help of skilled workers are now possible.
Today, there is high level of investments in healthcare services and infrastructures which have brought back primary healthcare that has resulted to availability of basic health services for the rural poor.
The Agbebiye /Mother and Child Hospitals spread across the state and the building of Trauma Surgical Centre by the State government are paying off.
Prior to the advent of the Governor Olusegun Mimiko administration in 2008, the World Bank had declared Ondo State as having the worst maternal and child health indices in the South West. In 2009, the state maternal mortality was put at 745 per 100, 000 live births. Three years after, an impact assessment done by the state showed 50 percent reduction, from 745 per 100, 000 live births to 317.
The success story has continued with the combination of the state’s community projects; Agbebiye which has dragged the maternal mortality rate to 172 per 100,000 live births as at last year. Through the Agebiye programme, the state has been able to save over 6,718 pregnant women in the last one year who would have lost their lives in the hands of unskilled workers.
The progress witnessed by the state in the area of maternal health earned it the World Bank recognition – a first in the history of Nigeria and the entire African continent. The progress which has made pregnancy safe in the state also caused the state to win the two editions of Bill Gates leadership award.
In Ondo, Traditional Birth Attendants, TBAs, which the World Health organisation, WHO, had identified as a major cause of maternal and child deaths no longer take delivery courtesy of the state government programme called Agbebiye.
Under the community project, over 5,000 TBAs and Mission Birth Attendants are forced to refer pregnant women to nearby health facilities. These TBAs are now empowered by the state government with vocational skills and are given a soft loan of N100, 000 to start their own business while each referral also earned them N2, 000. It is criminal today for an unskilled birth attendant to take delivery.
Statistics show that in three years of the establishment of Ondo Mother and Child alone, the centre has registered over 45, 000 patients, 25,000 under- five children, 17,000 pregnant women, 1,000 gynaecological patients , 10,000 safe deliveries and 2,500 caesarean sessions free of charge.
According to the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Gbala Michael, the quality of healthcare offered in the hospitals have led to influx of patients from neighbouring States and countries like Lagos, Osun, Kaduna, Imo and Liverpool.
“Our free services do not cover only normal deliveries but Caesarean sections, gynaecological surgeries, cervical cancer screening and family planning among others.”
Giving insight into the success and achievements recorded by the state government in the last four years, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju attributed the numerous achievements to government decision to give special priority to health.