From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), latest report has  revealed that about 82,000 pregnant women die annually from  pregnancy related complications or childbirth in the country. The new death rate arising from pregnancy-related complications doubled the figure released by the Federal Ministry of Health,(FMOH), just in March 2022.

The FMOH had said that at least 40,000 women in the country lose their lives to pregnancy-related issues annually.

The UNICEF Chief of Health in Nigeria, Dr Eduardo Celades, made the disclosure at the end of  a three Day Media Dialogue on COVID-19 and Routine Immunization, in Lagos it organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Culture.

He equates this to the nation losing approximately 225 women daily to maternal mortality, necessitating urgent action from the Federal Government and all stakeholders to end the threat in the nation.

According to it, from 2000 to 2020, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined by 34 per cent – from 342 deaths to 223 deaths per 100,000 live births.

It further revealed that the country also records eight million childbirth yearly, expressing worry that the healthcare care facilities in the country lack the capacity to cater for this number.

It also said that over one million children under the age of five also die as a result of losing their mothers to pregnancy delivery complications.

Celades, the report will help  UNICEF, development partners, state governments and other relevant stakeholders in its response to health challenges in the country.

He said:” In the last few months and weeks, we got new data. The report is telling us that still, the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes is very high. About 82,000 are estimated to die every year from maternal mortality.

“What we doing is to strengthen primary health care in the country. We hope that the data would help us in our response and the response with the government in Nigeria.

“The other one is the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (MICS)an analysis where there is the main issue and how we can face them.

“The other new data is the global maternal mortality trends,2000 to 2020. This is a new report that was launched a couple of weeks ago and we wanted to share that with you because we think this could influence how we work and define how we work with the government so that we can all align and we can have a common narrative.

“We think that this is the new way of working. We are learning and we are trying to innovate. Nigeria is one of the most complex countries in the world in terms of the public health issues that it is facing.

“It is the second country in the world with more zero-dose children–the ones that have not had any single vaccine. It is the country in the world with high maternal mortality.

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“Last year was the biggest outbreak in the world and Nigeria has an extremely weak health system. So, we are trying to think from different angles because we at UNICEF and the UN cannot move alone. To do that, we need the government to work with journalists and social media influencers to make the change that is needed.”

The UNICEF Health Chief, disclosed that the fund in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the Federal Ministry of Health will soon

launch antigenes virus vaccines in the country soon, noting that the vaccine would immunise children from some childhood diseases.

He expressed concern that at the rate the country was going, it will not be about to attain  target of SDG 3, by 2030.

“Maternal mortality is not going down. Maternal mortality is the same. We have seen that it has reduced by about 12 per cent in the last 20 years but it is not enough if we want to achieve the target.

“So, from UNICEF, our main approach is to try to accelerate interventions to make an impact. Now, we have seven years up to 2030 and we are halfway.  If we continue like this, some donors will leave in the next few years, so we have a window of opportunities,” he explained.

He disclosed that UNICEF

in collaboration with the Nigerian Governors Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dangote Foundation and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), launched the  Leadership Challenge, a flagship programme to revamp the Primary Health Care Under One Roof (PHCUOR) policy in the country by maximising the commitment of state governors to promoting progressive increase in PHC funding, and ensuring all primary healthcare centres have the requisite human resource capacity.

The challenge is anchored on a total of 13 awards to state governments, consisting of 12 awards for the best performing and most improved states and one award for the overall best performing and most improved state.

“The challenge is called the Primary Healthcare Leadership Challenge and the idea is to recognize and award the state governments that are investing more in primary health care in their states.

Earlier, UNICEF Nigeria Communications Officer, Safiya Akau, noted that “the importance of journalists and the media in battling false information concerning COVID-19 and routine immunization cannot be emphasised.

Akau said that: “For the public to receive correct and timely information, to combat false information, and to foster a sense of community and solidarity in the face of any epidemic, journalists have a critical role to play.”

“UNICEF has been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other preventable diseases, promoting social behaviour change, COVID-19 vaccination, systemic health system strengthening, and routine immunization.

“To effectively communicate messages on these important issues, it is important to make the most of this media dialogue,” she said.

She listed the objectives of the media dialogue to include: “Identify and discuss the sources of misinformation about COVID-19 and polio, and its associated risks; Examine different strategies for reporting COVID-19 misinformation and polio vaccination, and dispelling myths and Provide guidance on how to use evidence-based resources and best practices when reporting on COVID-19, polio response, and routine immunization.”