NIGERIA: Maternal Death: Task For Traditional Rulers

The increase in maternal death in Nigeria should worry everybody of and challenge persons whose proper actions can contribute to a quick drop in the number deaths of child-bearing women.

Worried by the situation, medical doctors under the aegis of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) say they will focus on improving society of maternal and neo-natal health during their conference in Benin this week.

The doctors say no fewer than 540,000 Nigerian women die yearly from pregnancy- related complications, while about one million children also die under the circumstance. They think it should be alarming enough that out of every 100,000 women that give birth, 800 die in Nigeria.

While Nigeria is second only to India as countries where the safety of mothers is the lowest, Nigeria is actually the poorest in antenatal care practices, including access to family planning and other basic health needs.

Similarly, Journalists Alliance for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV/AIDS in Rivers State organized a three-day workshop, where the subject of maternal death in Nigeria was eminently dealt with by experts.

Sadly, major factors causing death in child-bearing women include harmful traditional practices such as female genital cutting, blood oaths, un-safe abortion, pre-mature marriage and the denial of right of first daughters to marry in some cultures, among others.

Of the lot, female genital cutting was identified as the worst and that it has resulted in the death of women more that HIV/AIDS or any other ailment in Nigeria. It is also a major mode of transmission of infections including HIV.

According to experts, female genital cutting which was intended by the male dominated society to curb sexual drive in women, had in fact worked in the reverse, as women who cannot find sexual satisfaction press further for it.

Apart from the wickedness of denying women the right of sexual pleasures, the practice in many cases distorts the proper functioning of their system and causes in them, excessive laceration, bleeding and in some cases leaking of urine or feaces and even death.

Interestingly, a lot of the traditional leadership that superintend over the practice have come to understand the dangers and have had a change of mind. But the practice still continues for fear of cultural consequences.

Similarly, the Rivers state House of Assembly has enacted a law against the practice, but it is still in practice in places such as Abua and Etche. The practice has continued to flourish at the detriment of the life of women and at no benefit to society.

That is why the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers must keep quiet no more. It must educate its members on the dangers of all the traditional practices that endanger the life of women. They must also advise members to carry out symbolic cultural rites and openly abolish female genital cutting, among others.

In the same vein, they must place a curse on anyone that tries to perpetuate such evil practices by presenting themselves or doing the cutting. Unless this was done, people would continue to suffer avoidable deaths for fear of some imaginary consequences.

To bring the practice to an urgent end, government must use its agencies to adequately enlighten the people and act quickly on reported cases. Young girls must be encouraged to reject the practice and effectively report to the police any attempt to force it against their will.

We think that the best way to appreciate women is not to blackmail them to accepting pain, discomfort, shame and death. The act must stop now.

SOURCE: The Tide Online

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DATE: 14/11/2007

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