By Gabriel Olawale

Nigeria has been urged to pay special attention towards investing more in maternal health as studies have proved that every dollar invested on maternal health has capacity to generate $20 in return.

Speaking during the unveiling of Stephanie Linus as the West & Central Africa Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal Health, the UNFPA, Deputy Resident Representative, Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy, said the death of a woman as a result of childbirth, leaves the whole family vulnerable, causing productivity loss of about $1.5 billion annually in Nigeria and $15 billion globally.

•Ugwuanyi, flagging-off the 2015 free maternal and child health care services.

Kongnyuy said maternal mortality is the most neglected tragedy of the century, disproportionately affecting  populations, accounting for 33 per cent of the global maternal health burden. Nigeria that constitutes two per cent of the global population but contributes 12 per cent of the maternal burden.

“This shows the magnitude of inequalities that exist in our countries whereby in Nigeria daily, 111 women die of pregnancy related cases, equivalent to two aircraft crashing every day. If it was to be aircraft, the government would have banned airlines, so why are we quietly watching our women die?”

He said the deaths could be avoided if women had access to basic qualitative reproductive health care. “This means access to family planning, a trained health professional with midwifery skills at every childbirth, and timely access to high quality emergency obstetric and newborn care.”

Kongnyuy said violence against women and girls, harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation, gender inequity and economic disenfranchisement  are still prominent.

“Ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning means putting the poorest, marginalized and excluded women and girls at the forefront of our efforts, particularly those in conflict and fragile settings.

In her response, Linus noted that her movie entitled, “Dry”, expresses the tears, sorrow, pain and health complications that arise from marrying too early and getting pregnant too soon in Africa.

“It pleased me to know that these concerns are encapsulated in UNFPA’s mandate, to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

“I hereby pledge to work closely with the UNFPA to draw attention to the work that still needs to be done across the region to increase universal access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health services and information in order to stop women from dying in the course of bringing forth new life, to empower women and girls to choose freely and for themselves, if, when and how often to get pregnant, and protect the rights and dignity of young people to enable them thrive and be the best they can be.”

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