Maternal & Newborn Mortality

Every minute of the day a woman dies of pregnancy-related complications. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. Most of these deaths occur in developing nations. Half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria a woman has a one in 23 chance of dying in childbirth in her lifetime. Meanwhile, in developed countries, the ratio is 1 in 4,400.

Women die in Nigeria in childbirth from hemorrhage, infection, obstructed labor and hypertensive complications of pregnancy. We take for granted drugs to prevent hemorrhage and treat high blood pressure, antibiotics for infections, the availability of cesarean sections, and presence of skilled doctors, midwives and nurses. But in Nigeria only one-third of women deliver in a facility with this necessary infrastructure.

In the Catholic Diocese of Idah, Kogi State comprising of 9 Local Government with a population of 1.9 million people, there are only 4 Government equipped and functional hospitals serving people, many of whom live in distant rural areas with poor roads. The Kogi state generally remains largely undeveloped despite its central Nigeria location, having the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers, and only a two hour drive from the Nigerian Capital of Abuja. However, Kogi State is resource rich with coal, petroleum, iron and steel, and cement. The state has fairly good telecommunications services, which may help with service to Idah and other rural locations.

Women in the Diocese of Idah frequently attempt delivery without skilled birth attendants. Often a woman does not come into the hospital until labor has been unproductive for many hours and infection has set in or the baby has died. Transportation is difficult and expensive. Typically, insufficient value is placed on the life and health of the woman, and arrangements are not made to bring her to the hospital in time for a safe birth. Poverty, along with cultural and social tribal misunderstandings regarding health care, is a major factor in a family’s decision to risk a birth in their village without trained attendants.

The high rate of maternal death is profoundly discouraging for the entire community. Everyone knows someone who has lost a mother or sister in childbirth. Children are orphaned and husbands left despondent without companions. Many people now regard the deaths of a half million women world-wide each year as an intolerable disgrace that must be rectified.

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