Yemisi Ajayi , Ibadan
Medical experts in the areas of neo-natal medicine have called on the government and stakeholders in the health sector to step up interventionist efforts if the infact mortality rate in the country must me reduce.
The group, under the aegis of Nigeria Society of Neonatal Medicine (NISONM), a sub-specialty group of peadiatricians who treats new born within 42days old, said infant mortality is Nigeria’s worst health challenges.
NISONM President, Prof. Chinyere Ezeaka, while speaking at a news conference in Ibadan to commemorate the 10th Annual General and Scientific Conference of the Society said no fewer that 264,000 babies die out of the seven million births recorded yearly in the country.
She described the causes of the death as needless and preventable for a country as large as Nigeria.
Ezeaka said: “Compared to interventions in other health sectors, there had been minimal progress in efforts to reduce mortality among newborns in the country. We are worried with the dismal figure of newborn morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.
“Nigeria has the highest number of newborn deaths in the whole of Africa and second highest in the world after India. The statistics is quite grim.
“Where we lose about 264,000 newborns every year, which comes to about 700 newborn deaths everyday and when we break this down to hours you will see that we have lost about 30 newborns per hour.
“Fifty per cent of these deaths also occur within the first 24 hours of the baby’s life. This is totally unacceptable.”
While noting that the Society strategic objective is advocacy to the government and individuals to look inwards so that the preventable deaths would be stopped, Prof. Ezeaka however disclosed that the Association has embarked on trainings of health workers as her own way of addressing the issue.
As part of the 10th AGM activities, the Association, she said has trained 65 medical and health workers which comprises two representatives each from the 37 Primary Health Centres in the state.
The society president said that progress in addressing the high death rate had been slow due to inadequate training of front-line health workers and ignorance among mothers.
According to her, while the death rate is dismal, 90 per cent of the deaths in newborns are preventable.
She identified prematurity, asphyxia, infections and neonatal jaundice as the major causes of neonatal deaths in the country.
“Majority of these deaths are preventable by improving existing care and eliminating underlying causes of neonatal mortality.
“A major underlying problem is lack of respiratory support in our health centres, because when the babies are delivered, especially the premature babies, you must make them to breath.
“Respiratory support is very critical and an ambu bag, which costs less than N5, 000 is not available in majority of our birthing and maternity centres,” she said.
Ezeaka called on the three tiers of government to undertake a welfare support system for mother and child health to reduce neonatal mortality rate and make progress in newborn health.
“To ensure that newborns in Nigeria survive, thrive and live to attain their life potential, attention needs to be focused in the area of newborn health.
“Poverty, illiteracy and ignorance are underlying causes of infant mortality. No matter how poor or ignorant they are, they don’t want their babies to die.
“We need the government to come to their aid and give some insurance cover and ensure more women register for antenatal care where they can get adequate information,” she stressed.