Why Nigeria Is Struggling To Reduce Maternal Deaths – Ehanire

Nigeria’s maternal, reproductive health, child health and under 4 mortality has been described as the worst in the world.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire disclosed this on Friday at a 3-Day retreat of the House of Representatives Committee on Health Care Services toward commencing the amendment of the National Health Act of 2014 in Abuja.

The minister said in terms of the indices, Nigeria is one of the worst in the world, adding there was a time “we were getting over 900 maternal deaths per 10,000 live birth. In the last five years, it stagnated because of the investment.”

According to the Minister, “the very concept behind the save 1 million lives was because of the fact that we are having nearly one million needless death in Nigeria that could be avoided if certain things were done and we created some pillars to achieve that.”

He said the half a billion dollar investment made by the federal government through the states has not made any meaningful impact in reducing the number of mortality recorded at primary and secondary health facilities across the states.

“That investment was 500 million US dollars taken as a loan by the federal government and given to the states as grant. While technically that was successful, the actual impact of reducing one million death became questionable. Did we really reduce? In reality, we needed to have addressed the gaps and one of the biggest gap is lack of access to health care.

“If a woman is in the village and goes into labour at 1.00am, she is on her own because if she has complication, some of them will not see or have tomorrow. The same thing applies to children. Add the accident on our roads. Some are taken to the hospital and are asked to make payment before being attended to or nobody will attend to you because you cannot have access to ambulance”, he said.

Dr Enahire said the National Health Act is the best instrument available in the health sector, even though it needs serious rejigging to be able to effectively take the nation’s health sector to its desired destination.

“The National Health Act is the best instrument that we have had in the health sector in a long time when it was introduced in 2014, while those of us who had to implement it came on board in 2015. The pilot programme was carried out in three states. The act had three gateways. The NHIS, NPHCDA and the private sector”, he added.

Declaring the retreat open on Friday in Abuja, the House Speaker, Femi Gbasbiamila, said that the Act has not lived up to expectations, hence the need for the amendment.

“We must ensure that our healthcare system at home is robust enough to accommodate and respond to this reality because if we have learned anything from recent events, it is that in a global crisis, it is every country for itself,” he said.

The speaker, represented by the Deputy majority leader, Peter Akpatason, said that the role of lawmakers does not end after a bill is passed into law but extends to ensuring its implementation.

According to him, every legislation passed by the National Assembly has one ultimate goal, which is to improve the circumstances of people’s lives and make the country better.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health Services, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who chaired the event said when the House of Representatives first passed the amendment bill, it did not pass in the Senate.

He drew the attention of lawmakers to other interests fighting against the passage of the bill and the need to ensure that national interest wins.

The senator said internal complexity in the heath sector was also a bottleneck in the implementation of the Act.

“We have insurance asking for money, we have the primary healthcare asking for money, tertiary healthcare, we have the reproductive health, we have the emergency unit, everybody is asking for money in addition to the budgetary allocation because there is an extra budgetary allocation without asking what it is meant for.

“We feel that the foundation of the health sector is the primary healthcare and if we do not have foundation solidly built, whatever we put on it in the secondary and tertiary cannot hold.

“My suggestion will be that as we proceed with the amendment, we should think of what we have and how to implement it because the process of lawmaking is tedious, we are losing time and money.

“It is only the 2018 fund that has been utilised, 2019, 2020 are yet to be utilised because of all these bottlenecks in the implementation.

“We need to resolved it fast through our committees to see how to utilise what has been released while we go ahead with the amendment.

Dr Paula Gutierrez, the representative of United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) at the retreat lauded the initiative.

She thanked the lawmakers for the initiative to amend the National Health Act with the aimed to structure it to meet emerging health challenges.

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