by Abigail Anaba
In 2010, Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate was 630 for every 10,000 live birth. Since then, the number has risen steadily reaching a high of 814 deaths for every 10,000 births in 2015. This places Nigeria, as described recently by Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth.
One of the biggest contributors to this dismal figure is our poor health facilities coupled with inadequate access to maternal healthcare. On the average, only 37% of the about 7 million births each year in Nigeria 2017 happened in health facilities with the help of skilled health workers. That leaves a whopping 63% who used alternative means to give birth.
Pregnant women mostly stay away from hospitals because of the cost implications of healthcare. In a country with poor and often inaccessible health insurance facilities, most persons have to pay out of pocket. Our investigations reveal, these costs may vary from N10,000 in public hospitals to over N500,000 in private health care with the cost increasing with any additional complications. Laboratory tests which are necessary for prenatal care often lead to more costs.
In a country where the minimum wage is N19,500/month, it is little wonder that reports show that some women who opt for hospital care are detained along with their babies when they are unable to pay their bills, a phenomenon which NewsWireNGR’s Abang Mercy once reported. Women are often abandoned in hospitals by their spouses and partners because they are unable to cover the bills. Some end up spending many months in the health facilities until they are able to get help.
It is, therefore, a huge relief to these women when an NGO steps in to pay their bills and give them an opportunity to go home and take care of their babies. Tolulope Moore runs one of such organisations called Experience God’s Blessing Foundation (EGB Foundation). She tells NewsWireNGR about the time her foundation visited maternity homes to provide relief for some of the inmates. “[We visited] the Island Maternity Hospital on the 27th of January 2018 to see newborn babies and their mothers. We took with us diapers for the babies and also helped sort hospital bills for some patients.”
The new mothers faced prospects of being detained at the hospital for not paying their bills. “For one, she suffered an ectopic pregnancy and was abandoned by her husband when he heard the bill was running into several thousand,” Ms Moore said. It is one thing to have a safe delivery and not be able to leave for lack of money. It is even more traumatic for a woman who has no child to show for her time in the hospital. The added layer of abandonment by her husband must have been devastating. Ms Moore says seeing people like these encouraged is why she does what she does. “I am committed to encouraging everyone who feels life has nothing to offer. I envision a world where women and young people are empowered to conquer poverty and be a blessing to the larger society,” she says.
She continues, “For the second woman, she’s a mother of two, had a miscarriage and won’t stop bleeding till the doctors had to battle to save her hereby taking out her womb. Her husband had spent several thousand [naira] already and there was simply no hope for them anymore. The last lady just lost her job and her husband was trying to make ends meet but it had been difficult for them to sort the hospital bills.”
The Nigerian economy went into a recession in 2015, leading to thousands of job losses. Though the country’s economy is gradually picking up, cost of living is still quite high. Needless to say, the hardship is felt harder by women and their children, who depend on their husband and father to meet their physical needs. EGB hopes to provide relief for as many of these families as they possibly can. So far, the foundation has worked with The Down Syndrome Foundation in Surulere, Lagos; Widows at Iju, Agege, Lagos; Single mothers at Fagba, Lagos; the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos; Lasuth, Lagos; Isolo General Hospital, Lagos; The Massey Children Hospital, Lagos; and The Island Maternity Hospital, Lagos.
Ms Moore’s work may seem like a tiny drop in an ocean of women in need, but it trumps doing nothing at all. In Nigeria, maternal care is supposed to be free in various States but it ends up costing far above minimum wage even in public hospitals. As some women report, though they are only expected to pay about N10,000 for medical bills if they are not covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS, additional bills accrue from prenatal care. Also, the incessant strikes by health workers – health workers have just called off a 48-day strike – continues to force more people to turn to private hospitals which are often more expensive. Therefore, the work of NGOs cannot be de-emphasized.
Also, NGO’s like EGB go beyond hospital walls to provide for the nutritional needs of women and children. Speaking about the mission of her organization, Ms Moore explains how she has used various outreach programmes to help people who are less privileged. For example, last Christmas and this Easter past, she used social media to get support for her Rice Give Away. Bags of rice were donated to families in need. “In December a few people joined me to bless 40 families with bags of rice. We also had an Easter giveaway this March,” she says.
Other projects EGB has been involved in include the #KitKids4School project. According to Ms Moore, it was giving students of Lagos State Public schools sandals. “We were able to reach 600 kids from different schools in Lagos and Kit them with school sandals. Looking at how excited they were melted my heart, it’s a project that opened my eyes to see that many kids go to school in either torn sandals or slippers.”
As Nigeria’s population continues to grow, there will be a continued need to continue to help out in areas where the government falls short. NGO’s continue to fill this need to the joy and delight of the individuals whose lives they touch. We may not all be able to run NGOs but we can develop a giving spirit by contributing to NGOs like EGB who wish to keep helping the vulnerable in our society.
“What I do is I look for areas that people need help the most. In the last one year, I have come to realise that health is indeed wealth especially in Nigeria where many die due to lack of funds. I crowdfund so we have a more positive impact. The Foundation has a bank account for such causes.”
If you would like to help the vulnerable through Tolulope Moore’s foundation, you can reach out to her via her Twitter handle @inzaghi1