Nigeria is a country of paradoxes. It has abundant resources but is one of the poorest countries in the world. It plays a leading role in African affairs, and yet it has one of the highest maternal and neonatal mortality rates in the world, with a shocking 700 babies dying each day and 136 mothers dying in, or as a result of, childbirth each day.
These overall mortality rates mask the vast disparity between rich and poor. With children in the poorest families more than twice as likely to die before they reach their 5th birthday than those born to rich families. In 2006, a review of child health equity in 16 African countries highlighted Nigeria as the country with the largest disparity between rich and poor. The newborn mortality rate among the richest quintile was 23 per 1,000 live births, compared with 59 in the poorest quintile. In recent years, the Nigerian government has spent less on healthcare per person than almost any other government in Africa.
Most child deaths in Nigeria could be prevented. Just 1% of children sleep under an insecticide treated net, leaving them vulnerable to malaria, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s under-five deaths. Only 28% of children with diarrhea receive adequate oral rehydration salts, and just 33% with suspected pneumonia are taken to an appropriate health provider.
The challenge is to improve the provision of accessible healthcare, nutrition and related services so that the most vulnerable and marginalized children can get the help they need. But causes of child and maternal mortality are not solely medical or economic. Save the Children says that reducing preventable deaths in Nigeria rests on political will, re-prioritisation and implementation of a range of policies, many of which are already in place but are not being put into action. This needs to happen immediately.
The target date for achieving the promises politicians made when they signed up to the Millenium Development Goals to reduce the number of children dying by two thirds and to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters is 2015. On current trends, these targets will not be met and it’s countries like Nigeria that are failing. Save the Children has one clear aim – to get the world on track to meet these promises made and have launched their biggest ever campaign to get EVERY ONE to care about these needless deaths and to take action to stop them – whether politicians, the public or communities in countries like Nigeria. To visit the campaign website please click here.