A section of Ikola-Odunsi, a suburban community in Agbado-Oke Odo Local Council Development Area of Lagos, is predominantly occupied by artisans and low-income earners. Despite the intervention of Japanese Government which built the only Primary Health Care centre serving the burgeoning community, maternal mortality rate remains high. TESSY IGOMU reports
The death of Rashidat Yusuf, from birth-related complications, has thrown the area into a pensive-mood. While Rashidat’s husband, Tomori Yusuf, a welder, blames poverty for his wife’s death, residents of Ikola-Odunsi are wondering who the next casualty might be.
Rashidat’s infant, Enitan Yusuf, is currently three months old, but he will grow up without the privilege of being suckled by his birth mother.
The 38-year-old woman died eight days after delivery due to childbirth-related complications.
Presently offering Enitan the love and comfort he needs is Mrs. Caroline Sanusi, a woman his mother met by providence weeks before her death.
Rahsidat’s death is heartbreaking and one that stirs anger in the mind of those that have always advocated for a well-equipped, affordable healthcare system for the most vulnerable – pregnant women and children in Nigeria.
Going by HealthWise findings, Rashidat’s case is not isolated, as incidents of pregnant women dying needlessly are not alien to Ikola community.
Two other pregnant women, our correspondent learnt from residents, died this year due to their inability to access prompt medical care.
In 2015, Nigeria overtook India as the nation with the highest maternal and child mortality rate in the world, despite having a population that is less than one-fifth of India.
6A 2017 research article, notes that a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is estimated at one in 13.
Although many of these deaths are preventable, the coverage and quality of healthcare services in Nigeria continue to fail too many women and children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised.
“Presently, less than 20 per cent of health facilities offer emergency obstetric care and only 35 per cent of deliveries are attended by skilled birth attendants,” the report states.
The World Health Organisation says a Nigerian woman has one in the 22-lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum/post-abortion; whereas in the most developed countries, the lifetime risk is one in 4,900.
The National Demographic and Health Survey 2018, shows that Nigeria’s maternal mortality ratio is at 512 per 100,000 live births, and this has been described as high and unacceptable by experts.
In 2019, during the 62nd National Council on Health Meeting in Asaba, the Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire, decried Nigeria’s ranking as the country with the highest maternal and child mortality rate in the world.
He said despite a global decline in maternal mortality in Millennium Development Goals era, Nigeria’s mortality rate remained among the highest in the world, with over 40,000 deaths yearly.
Rashidat’s cry for help
Our correspondent on a visit to Ikola, met Mrs. Sanusi gently rocking a fussy Enitan to sleep in front of their modest home.
The 52-year-old, whose last child is already 16, said caring for the toddler has taken a toll on her health.
“I have been having fever and backache because I have not been sleeping well. He is a baby and needs constant care. He is now my son,” she said.
Her husband, Paul Olayinka Sanusi, a cleric in charge of the Christ Apostolic Church – Love of Christ Parish, says he has accepted the sudden responsibility foisted on him by fate.
Recalling how her family’s path crossed with that of Rashidat, Mrs. Sanusi said she attended a religious programme in their church in February.
She said the frail-looking, heavily pregnant woman, waited behind for prayers after the service.
“After praying with her, my husband requested for her scan result but she started crying and told him she has not done any scan.
“Rashidat later told me she has been drinking garri for days. After eating, I gave her foodstuff to take home
“My husband was very worried when she left. When she came back on March 17, he gave her N1, 500 to go for a scan.
“We were surprised when Rashidat returned with a scan result that gave her delivery date as March 17.
“Two weeks later, she came back and was in labour pain and empty-handed.
“We wanted to take her to Ikola Primary Health Centre, but she refused, saying they will not attend to her because she didn’t register there for antenatal.
“Not long after, my daughter, who is a nurse returned from work and checked on her, only to discover that the baby’s leg was sticking out.”
Mrs. Sanusi said after frantically reaching out for help, they were directed to a hospital inside the Abesan Estate, where an emergency caesarean section was done.
She said Enitan weighed 4.8kg at birth and was brought out unresponsive.
“He was placed on oxygen. Days after the surgery, his mother was still looking very weak.
“Rashidat’s husband could not provide the basic things she needed to boost her immunity. He will always say there is nowhere for him to get money.
“I did my best to provide for her as well as other patients in the hospital,” she said.
Mrs. Sanusi said eight days after the surgery, her family was about leaving for the hospital to christen the baby when they learnt Rashidat was dead.
“We rushed to the hospital to confirm and I took charge of Enitan.”
“Rashidat’s family members refused to show up after reaching out to them several times on the phone.
“Her husband was just crying because he could not provide money for her burial and to settle the hospital bill of N220, 000.
“He had to sign an undertaking to pay the money by the instalment.
“Rashidat was later buried at the Muslim burial ground at Ogundare Street, Ipaja, after the son she had in another marriage brought N25, 000 to pay for space”
“I am yet to pay a balance of N7, 500, for the baby things she took to the hospital,” Mrs. Sanusi said.