• 2:09 pm February 25, 2015


Abiola Afolabi

According to the maternal and child health survey by the UNICEF in 2013, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under five years olds and 145 women of childbearing age in a day, making it the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world. At least, 6.3 million children under age five died across the world in 2013, nearly 17,000 a day.

70 percent of the estimated one million under-five deaths is caused by preventable and curable diseases such as typhoid, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition is another cause of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria, it accounts for at least 50 percent of children’s deaths. Poor environmental hygiene, low access and utilization of quality health care services by women and children are additional factors.

The deaths of newborn babies in Nigeria is about a quarter of the total number of deaths of children under-five. About 9 out of ten of newborn deaths are preventable. Most of the deaths occur within the first week of life, mainly due to complications during pregnancy and delivery reflecting the intimate link between newborn survival and the quality of maternal care.

To many it is just statistics, but to thousands of families who lost their children, mothers, wives and sisters it goes beyond that. One would never understand the grief and misery of losing a loved one to avoidable deaths.

Albeit the government is making progress though slow in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, the child death rate dropped from 90 to 46 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013, there is still a lot to be done to attain the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality by 30 percent at the end of 2015.

With a 13 percent immunization rate for children between 12-23 months, Nigeria has the lowest vaccination rate in Africa. This recurring issue needs to be urgently addressed; the well-being of women and children in our respective states should be our prime focus now. Nigeria needs to integrate maternal, newborn and child health interventions into our health care services. Government should support data generation to ensure evidence-based policies and interventions and also make sure they are spread nationwide.

It is important to note that wide regional disparities exist in child health indicators with the North-East and North-West geopolitical zones of the country having the worst child survival figures. The North East Zone has the highest maternal mortality rate of 1,549/100,000 live births, compared to165/100,000 live births in the South West Zone —an almost 10-fold difference.