A low-tech, affordable solution to maternal deaths

Ban Ki-moon visits Maitama General Hospital in Abuja

Ban Ki-moon visits Maitama General Hospital in Abuja

Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia and France are the four nations UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting to highlight the importance of maternal health.

The trips to Nigeria and Ethiopia are part of the "Every Woman, Every Child" global health effort, which Mr. Ban launched in September last year during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit at UN Headquarters in New York.

Gerry Adams reports on the state of maternal health in Nigeria:

Thirty six thousand Nigerian women die each year while trying to have babies, the second highest number of maternal deaths in the world.  Battling this daily crisis are Nigerian families and healthcare professionals.

 Dr. Bello Dikko is one of them.  He is Head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital in the Northern state of Kano.  With an average of 30 births every 24 hours, it's one of the busiest maternity centers in West Africa.

 But even such a high profile hospital is not adequately staffed for emergencies.

 ”Hemmorrhage in obstetrics is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. Breech delivery, especially in multiple pregnancies, is a very complicated delivery.  There is need for a qualified OBGYN doctor.”

Hemmorrhaging often occurs following complications in pregnancy.

But increasingly, doctors in Nigeria are trying to improve services to pregnant women. Dr. Oladosu Ojengbede is director of the Center for Population and Reproductive Health.

 ”One of the reasons I got into medicine was that obstetrics was a very practical subject.  There is a problem, you see it, you solve it, you're happy. The family's happy.  Everybody's happy.”

 Dr. Ojengbede himself lost his mother at a young age.

I was only three years old and I saw there were very grave challenges you face when you don't have a mom.”

 He says most Nigerian women live in rural areas.  If the majority of births are taking place there, then that is where maternal services should be focused.  He has pioneered a low-tech and affordable health solution that helps keep women from dying of preventable causes — like hemmorrhaging. Dawn Shapiro  explains.

 ”One of the most effective life-saving solutions is the anti-shock garment.  This full-body suit, first conceived of by NASA, is being adapted for hemmorrhaging women.  The professor and an international team of colleagues have proven this suit can be used to treat shock by shunting blood from the extremities and back to vital organs.”

 Within a short time, says Farida Baballe, Head Nurse and Midwife at Murtala Hospital, the anti-shock garment enables the vital signs of a woman to reappear, giving medical personnel more time to prepare a blood transfusion.

 ”The time that we didn't have this anti-shock garment, the woman will just go, will just die, because there is nothing we could do to help her.  The only thing we can do is just to elevate the foot of the bed.  Apart from that, there is nothing we can do.”

 There are still a number of obstacles to overcome to ensure all women of Nigeria have access to safe, local maternal health services. Encouraging family planning, access to an adequate blood supply and protecting women's rights are just a few.

“You can say women's rights should be well protected.  But the truth is for now, we have not put in place all the structures. SEGUE the challenges are enormous.  And sometimes, they are depressing.  The frustrations are everywhere.  But he resolve is stronger than the frustrations.”

 Dr. Oladosu Ojengbede, director of the Center for Population and Reproductive Health in Nigeria.

Nigeria is one of the four countries UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting as he takes a four-nation trip to highlight the importance of maternal health.

duration: 3’28″

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