TOYIN ADEBAYO, Abuja
Imagine, the traumatic torture of pregnant women who daily see, hear of the deaths of a fellow pregnant women dying from complications relating to pregnancy and child births.
Unfortunately, Nigeria with over 160 million people contributes 10 percent of the world annual maternal death. The figure stands at 52,000 deaths per annum from complications relating to pregnancy and child births, this is alarming.
Statistically, 4,400 Nigerian pregnant women die on monthly basis, 144 die every day, making it 6 deaths every hour and 1 maternal death every 10 minutes due to pregnancy and child births which are preventable.
From these frightening figures, one is tempted to ask what the causes are, what the government is doing to effectively addressed the issue in order to reverse the inevitable death toll of our pregnant mothers.
To this end, Development Communications Network (DevComs), under its NOTAGAIN Campaign project, supported by MacArthur Foundation, recently conducted a field trip for health reporters with keen interest in Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) reporting.
The field trip is an activity under the MacArthur funded project to strengthen Maternal Health Accountability in Nigeria. The Maternal Health field policy tour focuses on selected low-income and underserved communities in Jigawa, Abuja, Kaduna and Lagos state in Nigeria. In Abuja, the field trip was to Katampe, a suburb of Mpape in Bwari Area council of the Federal Capital Territory.
As part of the team that visited Katampe, it was unbelievable at the sight of inhabitants of the community. In terms of structures and setting, Katampe can best be described as one of the dirtiest slum settlements situated on the outskirts of FCT.
Ironically, Katampe has Maitama, an FCT highbrow area as its nearest town, yet it is in the shadow of its own as it lacks several lives aiding social amenities. The houses are ramshackled, and the residents are in miserable living conditions. In front and back of houses as well as open places are heaps of refuse dumps with putrefying odour and flies hovering on them. With its macadamised road, movement during rainy season is almost impossible as evidenced by the red earth surface, which is always slippery and muddy when touched by rain.
During dry season, the reddish dust that comes from the red sand certainly will not allow people to pass through for fear of developing respiratory ailment as a result of inhalation of the dust. The population is intimidating as children, between ages five to nine years were seen in clusters playing with sand and dirty water while some of the women were seen with wrapper tide round their chest region discussing in groups.
As a result of the squalor and deplorable living condition of Katampe people, many believed that health facilities in the area will play host to a large number of villagers in search of medical attention. But that is not to be, as findings revealed that the villagers have no health facility. The only clinic situated in Mpape, is about 5km away from Katampe.
Imagining what life would be for inhabitants of a densely populated community like Katampe when hit by an epidemic and dire need for healthcare, informed further investigation into how pregnant women cope in the area. Village Head of Katampe, Alhaji Adamu Diga lamented the absence of life aiding amenities in the village, particularly a medical facility.
Diga also said they are in dire need of police presence in the area. He expressed dismay that since the origin of Katampe village, “there is no dispensary, no hospital”.
Speaking through an interpreter, the village Chief revealed that the nearest clinic is located in Mpape. “A times, we go to as far as Maitama, inside the Federal Capital Territory to get medical attention”.
On the issue of pregnant women in the village giving birth at home, the chief admitted that some women do put to bed at home instead of going to hospital. “Some pregnant women do give birth at home; we have some nurses residing in the village that help out during emergency” the chief stated. However, he said no case of death upon delivery at home has been recorded in the village.
Hadiza Sani, 26 years old, mother of three said she delivered all her children at home without going to hospital. Mrs Sani, who spoke in passable English said, “I deliver these my three children at home. There is no problem at all”.
She emphasised her not going to hospital to give birth is not for lack of money. “Why I deliver my baby at home is not because of money to pay for hospital, but because my husband does not permit me. May be it has to do with their tradition”. She said her last born is about two years, adding that she has not applied any birth control measure.
Another pregnant woman, Mrs Serah Tanko also said she does not go to hospital to give birth. The 39 years old mother disclosed that out of her five children, four were delivered at home. “I give birth at home, I do not go to hospital, and it is far from us. When labour comes, it is God that helps me, when am in labour late in the night and remember that our bad road to Mpape, i quickly go to the Nurse”.
Sometimes, when I notice signs of labour, before I will prepare to go to hospital, I will deliver in the house” Mrs Tanko said. She posited that, “If there is a clinic or dispensary in my village Katampe , honestly, I will like to give birth there”.
For Gloria Yusuf, another pregnant woman, “I deliver at the hospital. I normally register for ante natal at Mpape clinic, although it is a bit far in terms of when I am in labour, but it is the nearest hospital to us”. The mother of two kids said, “When I am in labour, I manage to look for motor bike to go to Mpape clinic. It is usually painful and stressful passing through that rough road but God is always on my side”.
More so, she admitted not to have witnessed any death of a woman as a result of child birth at home. However, Mrs Yusuf claimed that most of the women that like delivering their babies do so due to lack of money to settle hospital bills.
Eight months pregnant lady who simply identified herself as Godiya said she would not like to put to bed at hospital.
Although she confirmed registering for ante natal at Mpape hospital, Godiya said, “this is my first pregnancy, I will like to deliver the baby at home”. Effort to make her state her reason proved abortive as she vehemently refused to utter any other word.
In view of the revelations made by some of the pregnant women interviewed, Daily Newswatch findings revealed that the acclaimed nurses are not professional midwives. In a chat with a medicine seller in the village popularly called nurse, she admitted assisting pregnant women in the village to give birth.
She said over the years, she has gained experience in assisting women deliver their babies, adding that she got her training in 2006 at a private health care centre in Anambra state. Mrs Jacinta relived how she carries out her child delivery session. “When a pregnant woman comes to me, I will first of all ask her series of questions as well as find out if she is in labour; if in labour, I will pray and then start the delivery process. I have a stethoscope, hand glove etc. “Most of the pregnant women usually come to me if labour hooks them in the night” she said.
“I normally charge N2000 per delivery, and if there is bleeding, I refer the woman to Maitama General Hospital. Since I started assisting the pregnant women to give birth, no death has been recorded except one baby that died after 2 days in the mother’s house” Mrs Jacinta revealed. She recounted a sordid experience she had last month. “A pregnant woman came to me around 6:30am one Sunday morning. When she came I checked her and found out that she was in labour. When she was pushing, the ‘pikin’ (baby) was coming out through the back. We rushed her to Mpape clinic but they rejected her. It was at Maitama General Hospital that she was operated upon to save the mother and the baby” she narrated.
“After delivery, I usually advise them to go to the hospital to take BCG injection for the baby. Before childbirth, I conduct HIV test because I have the kit. Besides, I do not allow blood or body fluid of the pregnant woman to touch me, I put on gloves. In the last one month, I have delivered four women of their pregnancy” Madam Jacinta revealed. However, she appealed to government to train her professionally and provide equipment for her to carry on with her humanitarian services to pregnant women in the area.
For Esther Ologundudu, a pregnant mother of 3 children, she said only one was delivered in Katampe, but the other two were born in her village. She disclosed that the one she gave birth to in Katampe died after two years as a result of stomach upset.
According to her, “I will like to go deliver my baby here in Katampe because it is easy for me”. “When I am in labour, I will not have difficulty passing through that our bad road. If labour happens late in the night, what will I do?” Ologundudu queried. On whether she was tested for HIV during her childbirth in Katampe, Esther said, “I have not heard about HIV”.
In view of the predicament and agonizing way of life of the villagers particularly the pregnant women, most of the inhabitants said the only thing that would make life meaningful and worth living is when they have access to portable water, good roads and a health facility.
Obinna Aniekwe, a resident of Katampe said, “If government helps us to construct a clinic, provide good water and access road for us, then, life will be better for us. During rainy season, we find it very difficult to pass through our muddy road”.
It is however obvious from Daily Newswatch findings that those Katampe residents are dire in need of health facility, potable water, access road, professional birth attendants, and awareness campaign on why they should to go for antenatal and postnatal check up to make pregnancy and child birth pleasurable.
Imagine, a woman whose husband does not permit her to go for either antenatel or postnatal because of tradition.
What do you think of a pregnant woman in labour who refuses to go to standard healthcare facility because of the distance but prefers giving birth at home due to proximity.
Again, it is most appalling for a pregnant woman of about twenty six years to confess that she has not heard of anything like HIV/AIDS, all she knows is to get pregnant and deliver.
Or what becomes of a pregnant woman in labour who confirmed climbing on ‘Okada’ motor cycle on a bad road, in the middle of the night to access the nearest clinic.
In view of all these revelations, Government should as a matter of urgency, provide them with health facility, potable water, access road, professional birth attendants for these is what most of them are clamouring for.