The President of the Association for Reproductive and Family Health, Oladepo Ladipo, has called for a ban on child marriage in Nigeria to reduce complications arising from childbirth by children, such as vesicovaginal fistula (VVF).
Mr Ladipo, who is an obstetrics and gynaecology expert, said child marriage contributes to the high maternal mortality rate in the country.
He spoke on Thursday at a one-day National Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) in Nigeria. The event was organised by the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria in collaboration with the Department of Family Health, Federal Ministry of Health.
The dialogue was organised to review and discuss strategies and related indicators on EPMM and how they may advance maternal health in Nigeria.
Mr Ladipo said high maternal death rate should be recognised as an emergency by all levels of government in Nigeria.
“Facilities needed to look after pregnant mothers must be put in place, equipped appropriately and we must ensure we have trained personnel to look after the pregnant mothers,” he said.
“There is also a need to improve health literacy in the country. The importance of citizens utilising government facilities should be highlighted and the facilities available in every community should be known by all citizens because sometimes, the government in their wisdom may put a facility in a community and it is underutilised,” he said.
Mr Ladipo also advised against high-risk pregnancies – pregnancy below the age of 18 and above the age of 35, pregnancy occurring too often less than 18 -24 months, and frequent pregnancy.
He said family planning is an important strategy for reducing maternal mortality and the lowest hanging fruit that the government should grab.
“Unfortunately, our contraceptive prevalence rate is shamefully low, about 12 per cent, and you can see the effect on the population,” Mr Ladipo said.
Speaking at the event, the chairperson, White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria, Nanna Chidi-Emmanuel, said the dialogue was for the discussion and prioritisation of strategies and related indicators for the Nigerian context.
She said it is important that Nigeria is responsive to the emergency state of maternal mortality.
“We have done all the paperwork and passed all the needed policy, resources are available but it is urgent that action must roll and therefore we must recognise that beyond the health sector, we must have a sector-wide approach, engaging all the sectors that tend to all the community, individual and the women,” she said.
She said prevention is the most cost-effective intervention.
Five years ago, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released strategies towards Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality(EPMM).
The framework describes 11 priority themes for EPMM, which originated from consultations with stakeholders around the globe. The consultations were conducted by the EPMM Working Group to guide the development of a comprehensive strategic framework needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goal targets for maternal mortality.
The strategies include empowering women, girls, and communities; integrating maternal and newborn health, protecting and supporting the mother-baby dyad.