.2m Women Face Death During Pregnancy; Lagos Flags Off Child Health Week

•Dr Jide Idris, Lagos Health Commissioner

If the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, IMNCH, strategy is not implemented to the fullest, about 200,000 pregnant women may die in Lagos State by 2015, says the Lagos State government.

In order to prevent these expectant mothers from dying, the Lagos State government says it will aggressively implement the IMNCH strategy in order to save 200,000 mothers from dying.

Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Health, Dr. Yewande Adeshina, said the IMNCH is an initiative to fast-track the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, four and five, which are aimed at reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

Speaking at the weekend in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, during the flag-off of the second round of this year’s MNCH week celebration, Adesina  noted that the IMNCH strategy comprised intervention packages that addressed the main causes of maternal, newborn and child deaths, stressing that it focused on integrating maternal, newborn and child health services along the life cycle at all levels.

“With full implementation of the IMNCH strategy, we could prevent up to 72% of neonatal deaths; more than 70% of under-5 deaths and two-thirds representing 62% of maternal deaths.  In absolute terms, more than 200,000 mothers’ and six  million children’s lives can be saved by 2015,” she said.

The special adviser stated that the goal was essentially to reduce maternal, neonatal and child morbidity and mortality in line with MDGs four and five, adding that it was developed “out of the realisation that most deaths and morbidities are occurring because we are failing to provide high impact and cost-effective interventions and services to the majority of mothers and children.”

Adeshina pointed out that maternal, prenatal and child health globally constituted one of the most important issues determining national well-being, adding that for developing countries such as ours which are still struggling with improving their health indices, mothers and children still constituted a vulnerable group.

“When aggregated, this group, for instance, women of child bearing age and children under five years, represents over 42 percent of the state total population hence, even from the point of statistics, a responsive government which the Lagos State government prides itself to be, cannot but pay adequate attention to the well-being of this group,” she added.

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According to her, statistics depicting the maternal and child health status in Nigeria are not cheering, even now that they represent an improvement from the past, lamenting that “the tragedy is that too many women are still dying not from disease but during the normal, life-enhancing process of procreation.

“Of great concern is that a large percentage of these deaths and morbidities are avoidable if preventive measures are taken and adequate care is available. Maternal and prenatal health has emerged as the most important issue that determines global and national human development index.  This is because every individual, family and community is, at some point, intimately involved in pregnancy and the success of childbirth.”

Adeshina explained that the IMNCH week had an objective, which is geared towards improving the health seeking-behaviour of the whole family, especially mothers and under-five children’s caregivers by providing an integrated, high-impact and low-cost package of protective, preventive and primitive services to the whole family.

She listed services to be provided during the week to include routine immunisation, vitamin A supplementation, growth monitoring and promotion, including screening for malnutrition and appropriate counselling and referral, and distribution of deworming medicine.

“In addition, tetanus vaccine will be given to women of child-bearing age, who will also be counselled on key household practices like exclusive breast-feeding, hand washing, oral rehydration therapy and home management of fever.  Ante-natal care for pregnant women and family planning services for all women within the reproductive age group will also be provided”, she explained.

The theme of the celebration is A Total Package for a Healthy Family. The week kicks off today and will end on Sunday.

“The celebration would be implemented simultaneously in all the 57 local government and local council development areas to awaken the community to the health services that are available at our primary health centres.  In all, 963 health posts made up of 287 fixed posts and 676 outreach posts would be used for this exercise.

“Families and caregivers are encouraged to visit and also bring their children and wards, especially those from five years and below, to the health facilities and to continue to avail themselves of these services even after the end of the week long celebration,” she said.