Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State on Thursday, identified health system gaps and challenges, dearth of qualified personnel, low quality of care, inadequate utilization of available health facilities, and lack of access to essential medicines as factors fueling high maternal and child mortality rates in the country.
Oborevwori who disclosed this while flagging off the first round of the 2023 Maternal and Newborn Health Week in Asaba, said that providing accessible and affordable health care for mothers, newborns, and children is a critical component of any effective – and sustainable – primary health care policy.
Oborevwori noted that successive administrations in the state have provided free health care for pregnant women and children under five years in recognition of the importance that is attached to their survival and well-being.
He said his administration will not only continue the free healthcare for pregnant women and children under – five, but it will also improve Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) services in the state.
According to him, available data showed that maternal and newborn mortality rates in Nigeria are among the highest globally.
“In fact, in 2015, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world.
“Yet Nigeria’s population is less than one-fifth that of India! That tells you the magnitude of the problem on our hands.
“Generally, the high maternal and child mortality rates in the country are traceable to health system gaps and challenges, dearth of qualified personnel, low quality of care, inadequate utilization of available health facilities, and lack of access to essential medicines.
“Others include poor nutrition, complex pregnancy-related illnesses, and high cost of out-of pocket expenses at the point of service,” he said.
The Governor further said that “to meet the global targets in maternal, newborn, and child health services requires the participation of all, not just the government.
“The Delta State Government will continue to do its best to improve health infrastructure across the state and expand the health insurance scheme to capture more people in the informal sector.
“Furthermore, we shall continue to implement policies and programmes that will create wealth for our people so that they can invest in quality nutrition.”
He called for the involvement and cooperation of womenfolk to embrace and practice healthy social habits that improve women’s health, such as breastfeeding, regular physical exercises, and abstinence from illicit drugs.
“It is my earnest expectation that Deltans would take advantage of this week-long programme to receive basic primary health care services at various locations close to their homes and offices.
“Mothers and caregivers should endeavour to bring out their newborns and under-5 children to the Primary Health Centres and other outreach facilities to avail themselves of the health services.
“We need to embrace these promotional and preventive health services to avoid unnecessary medical complications, health emergencies, and avoidable deaths.
He called for the support of Local Government Council Chairmen, royal fathers, religious and opinion leaders in the engagement and mobilization of their subjects and followers to participate in this exercise.
He commended various partners in the health sector who have always collaborated with the State Government in its march to achieve the Universal Health Coverage mandate of the United Nations.
Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr Philomena Okeowo said the goal of the 2023 Maternal and Newborn Health Week was to improve the health status of women and children by increasing the coverage of key interventions.
She noted that the state had made considerable progress over the years with Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) dropping significantly below 200/100,000 live births and Child Mortality Ratio (CMR) reduced to 53/1000 live births.
In her goodwill message, Delta State World Bank Coordinator, Dr Faith Ireye, lauded the State Government for its commitment to mother and child survival as shown in the implementation of Primary Health Care services in the state.
She said Delta State witnessed a reduction in the outbreak of maternal and childhood killer diseases.
“Worthy of note is the significant reduction in the incidences of measles; there was 82 percent reduction in laboratory confirmed measles cases in the state in 2023 when compared with the same period in 2022,” Ireye stated.