Although there are considerable efforts and progress being made to address maternal mortality rate in Nigeria, the efforts are not good enough hence the death of so many mothers and babies still going on at an alarming rate. Knowledge about safe motherhood practices could help reduce pregnancy related health risks especially in the rural communities where women are naïve about safe motherhood. Of course, the health system in the country is a farce; a reason why the highly placed in the country always seek medical help outside the country while they always budget huge amounts of money for the health sector both at the national and state levels which effect are not felt.
Up till now, nobody can give account of how much was spent for President Buhari’s treatment in London last year. This is one out of many. Only in 2018, Bayelsa State budgeted a whopping N.5 billion for the health sector for the year while at the federal level, the sum of N340.456billion was set aside for health. Yet the general picture is that hospitals are in bad shape, facilities dilapidated or outdated, stores without drugs, patients lacking bed spae, etc while in real rural settings, many have no modern healthcare facility.
Health education is very poor in this country. For instance, women in the communities in Bayelsa State, especially in the creeks, are ignorant of what to do. So many don not believe in going for antenatal including teenage mothers that became pregnant from being sexually abused mostly by older men. Going round the communities in the creeks, one discovers with dismay the non -existence of health centers while the few ones there are poorly managed. There are no Doctors, no Nurses, no drugs, nobedding facilities. The Government that is supposed to provide these are not doing them after politically announcing that those facilities are there with huge amount of money voted to that effect.
The multinational companies at the region are not doing any better too. Sometimes women give birth in the boat trying to come to Yenagoa, the state capital, while those with complicated issues die on the way to the state capital. No wonder they are always at the mercies of traditional birth attendants who are even ignorant of what they do but because they are the last resort, they are always patronized. These are mostly illiterate women that cannot guarantee a clean and healthy environment while delivering these babies; the reason why some of them die after birth.
However, disturbed by the high incidence of infant and maternal mortality in the state, the Bayelsa State government initiated and inaugurated a sensitization campaign committee to spread the message of the Safe Motherhood Initiative across the state.
Launched during the Maiden Summit on Infant and Maternal Mortality, the state commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson said the committee will be saddled with the responsibility of taking the message of Safe Motherhood to all communities in the state. He said they will be working with the Ministry of Health and the Primary Health Care Board adding, that they were going to take the message of safe motherhood to every community in Bayelsa State.
“We want at the end of the day to bring everybody particularly the pregnant women, whether they are married or not, so long as you are a resident of this state and you are pregnant. “It is sad that we are losing our pregnant women but we now have the responsibility to put a stop to that. It is not a job for one man and that is why we say all hands must be on deck. “Governor Seriake Dickson is concerned about the lives of pregnant women and has created the opportunity to ensure that the state records zero rate of infant and maternal mortality. The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu had lauded Governor Dickson for approving the sensitization campaign, saying the committee will go to each household, identify pregnant women and other categories of health status in every household. He said: “This committee is going to get the records of pregnant women adding that they will make sure that every pregnant woman is informed as regards this initiative and the incentives to each pregnant woman to ensure that they come to the facilities we have and be attended to by birth attendants”. The Bayelsa State Government had told women to key into its safe motherhood initiative to enjoy the abundant benefits of the programme. Apart from registering and receiving free ante-natal care, the government said enrollees of the safe mother initiative would get free insecticide treated mosquito nets, HIV/AIDS screening, tetanus injection and routine immunization. Other benefits include free diagnostic tests where as well as a monthly incentive of Three Thousand Naira (N3, 000) only from point of registration into the programme up until two months after delivery. The whole essence of the safe motherhood initiative is to drastically reduce the infant and maternal mortality rate in the state and promote good health of mother and child according to the state Government but is it being achieved?
Also speaking, the Programme Manager of one the development partners, “Saving One Million Lives for Result”, Dr. Ebikapaye Okoyen said other benefits of enrolling in the safe motherhood initiative include a Two Thousand Naira (N2,000) only package for enrollees at point of registration and immediately after delivery as well as a delivery kit after child birth. Okoyen disclosed that the delivery kit includes, among other things, a pack of baby wipe, baby soap, Dettol, jelly, cotton wool, sanitary pad, baby towel, mucus extractor and some relevant medications. Of course the state had said that with the level of health care services being established at the 105 wards of the state, no child or mother will die out of child bearing again. Bayelsa state Government had tasked all the child bearing mothers to take advantage of the safe motherhood initiative the reason why so many women are presently pregnant in Bayelsa irrespective of the fact that the Federal Government had pegged only three children for every couple in Nigeria. But the Health Commissioner Ebitimitula Etebu said if the pregnant women didn’t come to register, they won’t get it all the benefits. The commissioner said ”We are doing everything necessary to see that they get good biometrics.”We don’t just want people to come and rubbish the very laudable idea. We want to put out something that is sustainable.
“We are telling the women, register and your monies will be given to you as at when due appropriately. We are talking about safe motherhood and safe childhood. What I want them to take home is that once a woman is captured, she is assured of the money. It doesn’t matter at what time the money will be released. Did you hear that? Recall that Bayelsa state Government had ear marked Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N250,000,000) only for the safe motherhood initiative and the programme started about four months ago but as at the time of filing this report no pregnant woman has benefited from this project at least not who I know. The Commissioner for Health had said that the most important thing is that you are captured adding that even if they give birth, their money will be kept for them but so women I know had become pregnant because of the Three Thousand Naira (N3000) only monthly stipend and free medical care but as we speak so many are now attending ante-natal outside the planned safe motherhood programme. Also the state government announced that young girls that are not married can be beneficiaries which may incidentally increase the number of young girls with pregnancy in Yenagoa. A woman in my area Madam Preye already with four kids had got pregnant because of the safe motherhood initiative programme but up till when filling in this report, she was yet to register. But she had said “At least every month, I will go and collect Three Thousand Naira (N3000) only and free ante-natal. When I want to give birth, they will take care of everything. Another woman with five kids but now pregnant, Mama Tari also took in because of the programme but now regretting because according to her she was yet to benefit from the programme already five months gone. The Restoration government will soon round up and the commissioner said no yet but already a huge amount has been set aside, then what has happened to the Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N250,000,000) that is set aside for this project?
Pauline Onyibe writes from Bayelsa state.