Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nigerian government's health neglect

In Nigeria , 59,000 women die during or soon after childbirth every year.

Nigeria's maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the world, after India -- 1,100 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The country is home to 2 percent of the global population, but 10 percent of all maternal deaths take place there.

The Center for Reproductive Rights places blame squarely on the "government's lack of political will" to implement policies and allocate funds to improve women's health and prevent maternal deaths.

It also points to widespread corruption in the oil-rich country as a fundamental problem undermining health care for women.

For example, one study found that 42 percent of Nigerian health care workers went unpaid for as long as six months, although the funds had been provided by the federal government. As a result, these workers began demanding "contributions" from women seeking maternity-related care.Similarly, the report notes that public health facilities demand that women seeking care provide many of the needed supplies (disinfectant, bandages, etc.), and require the women to purchase a particular brand.Women who deliver in hospitals must pay immediately or risk detention. One informant told CRR researchers of a woman who fled the hospital in the night after undergoing a birth by Caesarian section, even before her stitches were removed.

"I have seen women who after delivery had to come round the wards begging for money."

The government has also failed to provide access to information on family planning and contraception, two issues very closely related to maternal death. Early marriage is common in Nigeria, and young women are often required to conceive immediately and frequently, endangering their health.This failure, CRR charges, means that the government "violates its duties under international human rights law, namely its obligation to ensure the right to health, the right to access family planning services and information, the right to decide on the number and spacing of children, and the right to equality and non-discrimination."

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