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The Role of the Media in reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality for sustainable development

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Principal Consultant at Affinity Consulting Ltd

For Nigeria’s development, the unwarranted deaths and needless pains of women, newborn and children must be halted. Nigeria in 2015 recorded 19% of global maternal mortality and is among the 18 countries with the highest maternal mortality rates globally. Currently maternal mortality ratio stands at 596 per 100,000 live births (WHO, 2015) while NDHS 2013, records MMR at 576 per 100,000. As the second highest contributor to maternal mortality and under five, Nigeria loses about 2300 under five years old and about 33,000 women annually; Nigeria achieved an average of 1.2% annual reduction in under-five mortality since 1990. Although a global decrease in MMR was reported at the end of MDGs, Nigeria is one of the countries that did not achieve the MDG goal 4&5. About 80% of all maternal deaths result from five complications related to: hemorrhage, sepsis, eclampsia & pre-eclampsia, obstructed labour and complications of abortion. Most of the newborn and child mortality are related to preventable issues such as infection, diarrhea and malnutrition. This demonstrates an abysmally poor chance of a pregnant woman, a newly delivered mother and their children’s opportunity to survive.

Based on available evidence, some level of awareness has been recorded among women and local /rural communities in many parts of Nigeria although regional disparities are still wide and evident. Behaviour change has occurred minimally and has not been maintained as a consistent practice due to the various depths of misconceptions, cultural connotations, and myths including challenges with access, affordability and availability of quality health care services. The utilization of health care services is said to be improving but yet to yielded the expected health outcomes to reverse the trend in maternal, newborn and child mortality. The health system has critical gaps in financing healthcare and making available the required human resources for health.

The media is a critical stakeholder in the development discuss of Nigeria and has grown remarkably as a powerful source of information, education, entertainment and key influencer in decision making for individuals, families, organizations, communities and government. Millions of Nigerians increasingly, source information from the media – electronic, print or even traditional community networks to increase livelihood, education and health etc. The media has over the years participated in reporting health issues with limited coverage, inconsistent approaches, which have made media information; remain at the level of an informer and not a reformer.  The level of a reformer is required for a critical and rapid transformation in the MNCH agenda.  While reporting health and MNCH issues are limited, other challenges include the correctness and credibility of the information reported, the nature of the issues to policy transformation and the contest of publication space for MNCH /health as against issues such as politics. The fact remains that the media has the capacity to change people’s convictions.

The media as a critical partner must

  • Give expression to mother and child mortality in Nigeria and demonstrate how deplorable the situation is.
  • Make available information on the efforts of the government, donors, NGOs, hospitals and philanthropists towards the reduction of mother and child mortality in the country.
  • Provide information to the masses in their language. Information should be disseminated through indigenous languages to enable understanding
  • Provide information on the available strategies using creative approaches and providing available choices on issues
  • Partner with ministries of health, international and local organizations to address the barriers to the use of high-quality maternal and newborn health care from the households to hospital
  • Through the various media channels relay in diverse ways, the importance of antenatal care for improving maternal and newborn outcomes, including prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy and prevention of mother-to-child transmission for HIV.
  • Provide information on the importance of skilled providers (doctors, midwives and nurses) to provide essential obstetric and newborn care
  • Provide information for traditional birth attendants and local/ rural women on the various dangers signs as well as importance of prompt referrals.
  • Provide information on how the masses can access basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care so that the approximately 15% of births that develop complications are promptly identified and managed. This includes identification and management of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, prevention and treatment of obstructed labor (a major cause of obstetric fistula), postpartum hemorrhage and newborn asphyxia—some of the most common causes of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality
  • Provide information on family planning services during the antenatal and postpartum periods; provide information on increased access to and use of quality post abortion care services to prevent mortality from abortion complications and provide information on improved quality of services and infection prevention practices that help reduce postpartum and newborn infections.

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