The plights of expectant mothers continue in Benue State despite the completion and commissioning of a mother-child hospital. The 120-bed facility which President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned in March is yet to admit patients as health experts say maternal and child mortality could be rising in the state. Daily Trust on Sunday investigates the facility’s delayed opening and women’s pains to secure successful deliveries of their children.
Olohi Adam and her unborn child were certified healthy at the third trimester of her first pregnancy, even up till she went into labour.
Adam told our correspondent in Makurdi that her joy knew no bound when the early sign of pain, indicating that she was due for delivery, showed up.
She narrated, “I was immediately conveyed to the private hospital where I had been attending ante-natal care, but the caregivers at the facility turned me back on account that it was false labour. I returned the next day and it was same response until the third day when they took me in.
“For those three days, I was in labour but much attention was not given to me, even when it was obvious that there was no longer strength in me. Finally, I was told that my baby was too big and I needed to keep pushing to bring forth naturally. In the end, my ‘supposed’ healthy baby came out dead.
“I later learned that my baby was exhausted and that led to his death. My husband and I had no experience earlier, and as such, we were left in the hands of those we thought knew better, but they failed us.”
Adam’s experience, who was, however, fortunate not to have also lost her life during the process of delivery, is one among many other sad tales in recent times, where women die from childbirth.
In Benue State, medical personnel have admitted that incidents of maternal and child mortality are on the high side.
Experts in the medical field attributed the attitude of health care givers, delay in going to hospitals and delay in finding transport as the basic findings of a survey, which continued to rank the state high in maternal health issues.
One of such factors – attitude of health givers – may have been responsible in the case of Adam, who lost her child during delivery.
For this reason, among many others, President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 1, this year, commissioned a 120-bed mother and child hospital named after him in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
Buhari said the medical centre in Makurdi, like others across the country, was a clear demonstration of his administration’s commitment to address the high rate of maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.
Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGH), Boss Mustapha, the president said the facility was also meant to improve Nigeria’s health sector and practically address some developmental challenges.
“As we all may be aware, in Africa today, Nigeria is reported to have one of the highest mortality rates despite reducing significantly from 254.93 deaths per thousand live births in 1971 to 95.12 deaths per thousand live births in 2020.
“This development will expand the health care facilities for women and children. It is aimed at strengthening the efforts of the state government in the provision of health care for its citizens,” he said.
The president said the Muhammadu Buhari Mother and Child Centre in Makurdi was equipped with state-or-the-art facilities, which include, among others, two operating theatres, recovery rooms, private and general wards, scanning room, consultation rooms and a laboratory.
Others include an ultra-scan machine, vacuum extractor delivery set, and an emergency cart with full compliments.
He expressed optimism that the facility would bring employment in both medical and non-medical areas, thereby contributing to the treasury of the state.
Buhari had also assured that with the facility, every child would live to his/her full potential and the mother live to reap her labour. He enjoined the sons and daughters of Benue to join forces with his administration to rebuild the country, irrespective of party affiliations.
At the event, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs), intimated that the strategic intervention was directly linked to the achievement of SDG-3 on ‘Quality Health and Well-being for all’, as well as other cross-cutting SDGs.
She said it was, therefore, expected that the Benue State Government, and indeed, other state governments benefitting from such interventions, would make judicious use of the facilities in a sustainable way for the benefit of Nigerian mothers and children.
“Let me conclude by re-affirming our commitment to the overall achievement of the SDGs by the year 2030. We will continue to prioritise interventions with potential impacts on the lives of the poor and vulnerable members of our society so that no ‘Nigerian is left behind’,” Orelope-Adefulire had posited.
But four months after the commissioning of the gigantic project, the hospital has not yet commenced operation as expected so that it would contribute to the improvement of the quality health care in the state.
Our correspondent who visited the facility, situated on the David Mark Bypass in Makurdi metropolis, observed only two guards on duty, while the environment is gradually taken over by grasses.
Apart from the security personnel in mufti, no other worker or person was seen in the premises. And the gates were locked.
Some petty traders and artisans plying their trade close to the facility told our correspondent that the hospital would boost their businesses whenever activities commence.
The state coordinator of the Network of Religious Leaders Living with/Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+), Dr Abigail Fanan Gire, thinks the state government should no longer delay in putting the hospital to use as she decried the alarming rate of maternal and child mortality in the state.
Gire, whose organisation recently embarked on the Campaign on Universal Access to Maternal and Child Health among Religious Women Leaders in Benue State, worried that the trend of high mortality was still up to 70 per cent.
“In Benue, maternal and child mortality is alarming. I do not have the exact statistics because there are no records, but it is high. The issue of maternal and child health is worrisome. The rate of mortality is still high in Benue; it is still over 70 per cent,” she said.
She said the medical centre was a very good project, saying it was time it started operation in the interest of Benue people.
“It is not about the structure but health workers. Up till now, nothing seriously has started there. If that facility is put to use, all these complaints about lack of transportation to hospitals, costly services and other things would be minimised.
“I will advocate that the hospital takes off early enough; and being a federal government idea, they would be considerate in terms of charges, and that will salvage the situation,” Gire added.
Our correspondent recalls that the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development in the state, Mrs Tabitha Igirigi, recently emphasised the high rate of maternal and child mortality, saying it was high.
Represented by the director of women affairs in the ministry, Mrs Dooshima Ageh, at a NINERELA+ function, the commissioner expressed worry over the teething challenges with maternal and child health in the state.
She said, “It is painful that in the 21st century, there are still teething problems with maternal health. In this era, we shouldn’t be talking about women dying or having issues related with child bearing.”
The commissioner said although there had been an improvement from a survey carried out in 2003, which ranked Benue State highest with maternal health issues in the country, there was the need to step up sensitisation.
She mentioned three major delays as the attitude of caregivers, delay in going to hospitals, as well as means of transport, a situation that has continued to rank the state high in maternal health issues.
In the same vein, the Commissioner for Health and Human Resources in the state, Joseph Ngbea, who could not be reached at the time of sending this report, had in a recent conversation with our correspondent, noted three levels of delays, which he explained were responsible for the high incidents of maternal mortality in Benue. He added that the availability and accessibility of health services in the state had continued to improve on a regular basis to nib the challenge in the bud.
The special adviser on SDGs to the Benue State governor, Prof Magdalene Dura, could not be reached for comment on why there is delay for the take-off of the mother and child medical facility.
But responding to questions from journalists about the delay in putting the hospital to use few days ago, Governor Samuel Ortom said his administration was considering to lease out the facility to a private hospital to manage.
Ortom said that under the arrangement that birthed the hospital, the state government provided the land space, while the federal government built, equipped and handed it to the state for use.
He said the project was directly under the office of his special adviser on SDGs, and expressed optimism that the hospital would soon commence operation.