Traditional leaders, your role in reducing maternal mortality is of the utmost importance – MSF

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In their continuous struggle against the persisting maternal death rate in Jigawa State, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), better known as Doctors Without Borders, has informed traditional leaders that they should take a more active role.

During a courtesy visit to the District Head of Taura, Dr. Fatima Aliyu, leader of the MSF Medical Team at Jahun Hospital, revealed this while stressing the vital role of traditional leaders in supporting maternal health.

The World Health Organization reports that there are 814 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in Nigeria.

Nigerian women had a one in twenty-two chance of dying during pregnancy, delivery, the postpartum period, or after an abortion, compared to one in four thousand nine hundred in industrialized nations.

The National Demographic and Health Information System (NDHIS) reported 174 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Jigawa State in 2021.

According to Dr. Fatima, many women in Jigawa State succumb to difficulties during pregnancy every year, making maternal mortality a major issue in the state.

The importance of traditional leaders’ support in enhancing healthcare services and increasing knowledge about maternal health issues was emphasized by MSF, who recognized the crucial role these leaders play within their communities.

She announced that the Jigawa State Ministry of Health and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have partnered to offer comprehensive emergency obstetrics and newborn care, which is greatly needed, in an effort to reduce maternal mortality.

Since up to over 80% of births still take place at home, she elaborated that traditional leaders can use their cultural clout to persuade pregnant women to get prenatal care and give birth in hospitals.

District Head Nura Usman of Taura responded to a call from MSF by pledging to back efforts to protect maternal health.

He commended MSF’s work and promised to work closely with healthcare officials to solve the community’s and Jigawa State’s maternal mortality problems.

Those women who have been to the prenatal appointments but have decided to give birth at home are being actively sought out by the traditional institution, he said.

“Most of the problem is attending facilities for delivery is the problem,” the District Head remarked, claiming that if 1,000 pregnant women attend prenatal care, only 200 of them would actually go to the hospital to give birth.

“In most of the hard-to-reach communities, these problems are due to a lack of awareness, poverty, and access roads.”

He claimed that traditional leaders are using Friday sermons and other public events to raise awareness about the need of prenatal care and hospital births.

He said that they have instructed ward leaders to keep an eye out for husbands who refuse to bring their pregnant wives to the hospital so that they can take appropriate measures.

Malam Lawaisa, a 28-year-old mother of two who suffered from vesicovaginal fistula (VVFz), described her terrifying first delivery.

According to her, the development of VVF was a direct result of her lengthy and hard labour. After her surgery, doctors from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urged her to be extra cautious and get medical help quickly when she gave birth to her second kid so that her condition wouldn’t come back.

Afitawa, Taura LG resident and 23-year-old mother of four Zilai Yau was another casualty. She spoke about her home delivery experience and how it was different from her hospital birth.

She stressed that, for the sake of mother and child, it is crucial that pregnant women have prenatal care and choose to give birth in a hospital.

“I was welcomed, treated, and cared for with dignity all the way up until the moment I gave birth, and there was no charge whatsoever.”

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