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UNICEF laments deaths of Nigerian mothers

Safe Motherhood Day an opportunity to concentrate on ways to protect lives

ABUJA, 26 MAY 2009 – About every 10 minutes, a Nigerian woman dies as a result of complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Thousands more are disabled in birth-related accidents every year. UNICEF, marking Nigerian Safe Motherhood Day on 26 May, laments this loss, and calls on all Nigerians to help stop maternal death and illness.

UNICEF lauds the Government of Nigeria for its efforts to reduce the rate of maternal mortality here, which is nonetheless still one of the highest in the world. “We know how to reduce maternal mortality and illness; it can be done,” said Dr. Suomi Sakai, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “Basic measures—such as preventing and treating malaria, providing mothers-to-be with adequate nutrition and ante-natal care, training birth attendants, and ensuring that health centres can offer emergency obstetrical care—save the lives of women and their children.”

Unsafe motherhood affects children’s lives profoundly. At least 20% of the burden of disease in children below the age of five is related to poor maternal health and nutrition, as well as quality of care they and their mothers receive at delivery and during the newborn period. When a new mother dies, her baby is ten times more likely to die within two years than if she had survived. Without mothers, older children—especially girls—often drop out of school to help run the household. Families suffer financially because of the loss of an income earner, which can have a negative impact on children’s nutrition, health, education and safety.

UNICEF supports national efforts to improve the wellbeing of mothers-to-be by strengthening healthcare systems and services at all levels of government, as well as by providing pregnant women with bed nets, anti-malaria treatment, vaccination against tetanus, and nutrition supplements.

Families play a crucial role in protecting the wellbeing and lives of mothers-to-be when they encourage them to stay in school (educating girls for six years or more drastically and consistently improves their childbirth survival rates), to delay childbearing until they are physically ready, to learn about maternal and reproductive health, and to seek qualified attention when they are pregnant and when it comes time for them to deliver their babies.

“If children are the future of the nation, then safe motherhood is a driver of national development: it should be a national priority, one that every one of us takes to heart,” said Dr. Sakai.

For further information, visit or contact:
• Paula Fedeski, Communication specialist, at +234 803-402-0879 or
• Geoffrey Njoku, Communication specialist, at + 234 803-525-0288 or



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