The Ebonyi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezurike, has condemned the involvement of unskilled birth attendants in maternal and child health, noting that they are responsible for about 60 per cent of maternal deaths in communities.
According to the commissioner, the services of unskilled birth attendants cause more harm than good.
He stated that the government has to be careful in its engagement with unskilled birth attendants in providing obstetric care.
Umezurike spoke on Monday during a virtual launch of a report titled, “Why Women are Dying While Giving Birth in Nigeria” by Africare, Nigeria Health Watch and EpicAfric.
The commissioner said, “Unskilled birth attendant is already not acceptable and probably what has been accounting for very high, unacceptable maternal mortality in Nigeria.
“We have to tell ourselves the truth. The basic fundamental remote cause of people engaging these unskilled birth attendants is girl child education because the people that are likely to patronise them are women who are not educated.
“If we cannot do away with unskilled birth attendants, for now, we have to be careful in what we use them for and how we engage them because they cause more problems no matter what you preach.
“In Ebonyi State, there was a time we made legislation that no unskilled birth attendant should keep a pregnant woman for more than 10 hours. But who is there to monitor that 10 hours?
“You find out that these unskilled birth attendants refer to these women when they are at the point of death. So, they are causing more harm than good.”
He further said, “If you understand what is happening in these communities, you will see that 60 per cent of these deaths are caused by unskilled birth attendants.
“Nigeria should be thinking about how to come above this, the world is changing and science is real.”
Dr. Umezurike stressed that all efforts should be made to not use them to attend to people.
“You must not be a birth attendant when you are not skilled and trained. We should be thinking of how actually to get over the use of unskilled birth attendants.
“If all the states in Nigeria start a comprehensive health insurance package and ensure one primary healthcare centre per ward, it would go a long way.
“This is the way to go in reducing maternal deaths in Nigeria. Health insurance is one issue that can catapult our healthcare delivery system to an enviable height. In all the developed countries, there is not a strong health system without health insurance.
“There is no gainsaying that unskilled birth attendants should not be used at all”, he said.
He, however, said on the interim, unskilled birth attendants should be attached to skilled attendants in a facility.
He advised pregnant women to register in health facilities that have skilled attendants for antenatal.
The report was launched to raise awareness of the high maternal mortality burden in Nigeria, particularly the high prevalence of maternal deaths in communities.
Experts say Nigeria’s latest maternal mortality ratio of 512 per 100,000 live births, as contained in the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018 is unacceptable.
A joint report (Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 by World Health Organisation, UNICEF, World Bank and United Nations Population Fund) estimates that Nigeria has approximately 58,000 maternal deaths annually, accounting for 19 per cent of maternal deaths globally.
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