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UNICEF: Scale up of the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Strategy (IMNCH) to reduce Maternal and Newborn deaths in Nigeria

...As the 2009 State of the World’s Children’s Report is launched in Abuja

Abuja/Nigeria/February 16, 2009 - Maternal and newborn deaths in Nigeria must be drastically reduced if Nigeria has to meet the millennium development goals 4 and 5 which relate directly to mothers’ and children’s health. This was highlighted today at the launch of the 2009 State of the World’s Children Report at the UN House Abuja. The State of the World’s Children Report is UNICEF’s annual flagship publication on how the world treats her children.

The report was launched by the First Lady, Her Excellency, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua with the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin as Chairman. Honourable Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Dr. Salamatu H. Suleiman, the UN Resident Coordinator, Dr. Alberic Kacou, and the UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suomi Sakai in attendance.

The report notes that the earliest days of life are the most vulnerable for a child. Almost 40% of under five year olds’ deaths take place during the first 28 days of a child’s life and most of these (75%) during the first 7 days. The highest risk of death for a child is on the first day of life when an estimated 25-45% of new born deaths occur. The report also highlighted the firm link between the health and survival of a mother and the survival of her newborn. Newborns are unlikely to survive if their mothers die at child birth.

Ironically most of the conditions leading to death in the mothers (complications of pregnancy and delivery, anaemia made worse by malaria, HIV etc) and in the newborns (severe infection, breathing difficulties and premature delivery) are preventable or treatable with basic measures such as quality reproductive health services, antenatal care, skilled health workers assisting at birth, access to emergency services and after delivery care (postnatal) for both mother and newborn, adequate nutrition and education to promote healthy practices for newborns and their mothers.

Sadly, according to the report, women in the developing world like Nigeria are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than their peers in the developed world.

Nigeria ranks second with highest number of maternal deaths in the world after the Democratic Republic of Congo. The estimated national maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in Nigeria is 800 per 100,000 live births, resulting in 47,000 maternal deaths each year. For every woman who dies of maternal causes, at least six newborns die and a further four babies are stillborn. About 5.9 million babies are born every year in Nigeria, and over one million of these children die before the age of five years. In Nigeria alone, 284,000 newborns die every year – 778 deaths each day. Many of these deaths occur at home and are therefore unseen and uncounted in official statistics.

“The good news is that these needless deaths are preventable. Scaling up the implementation of the integrated maternal and newborn child health strategy is key to this prevention” said, Dr. Suomi Sakai. “This strategy provides a continuum of health care starting before pregnancy through pregnancy, childbirth, after delivery (postnatal) and through childhood. What is urgently required is a scale up coverage of more than 70%”, Dr. Sakai concludes.

Currently in Nigeria, almost all key packages along the continuum of care have coverage of less than 50 percent.

For further information, contact Media & External Relations, UNICEF Nigeria Country Office:
• Paula Fedeski: +234 803 402 0879;
• Geoffrey Njoku:+ 234 803 525 0288;



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