Posted by Ian Ballantine on Apr 15, 2024
Taken from the RI website here. By Diana Schoberg
Supported by a Rotary Programs of Scale award, an initiative in Nigeria seeks to remedy the country’s high instances of maternal death.

On the outskirts of Abuja, beneath a blistering November sun, a pregnant woman, leaning on the arm of her friend, shuffles across a courtyard and disappears into a brick shed. Moments later, from within the shed, come shouts of “Push! Push!” A few more minutes pass and the pair reemerge, only this time the woman is seated in a wheelchair pushed by the friend. Another woman walks alongside them carrying a newborn baby.


The woman in the wheelchair is in distress. From across the courtyard, a nurse runs toward her. “Why didn’t you come to the health facility to deliver the baby?” the nurse laments while checking the woman’s blood pressure. Other health workers cluster round. “She has lost a lot of blood,” cries the nurse. “We don’t want her to die here.”

Their ministrations are futile. The woman slumps in the wheelchair. The nurse looks up and delivers a belated admonishment. “The safest way is to deliver in the hospital,” she says. “You see what has happened to this woman? We have lost her. We have lost her!”

A second of mournful silence passes, and then from every corner of the courtyard — from the scores of people seated beneath blue tarps to the dozen or so clustered within the shadow of a solitary tree — comes a great wave of applause. The performance has been a great success.

That is exactly what this scene in the courtyard of the Kuchingoro Primary Health Care Centre has been: a performance, staged for the benefit of the nearly 200 people who have gathered this morning outside Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja. The nurse is no actor but Victoria Okwute, the health center’s chief nursing officer, and the occasion is a Rotary-supported workshop organized to address the shockingly high numbers of deaths that accompany childbirth in Nigeria.

No country has greater instances of maternal death than Nigeria. In 2020, 82,000 pregnant women and new mothers died there, nearly four times the maternal fatalities in India, where the second-most deaths occur.

One contributing factor? Sixty percent of births in Nigeria take place outside of a health center or hospital, meaning mothers and expectant mothers are far more vulnerable if complications arise. And they so often do: The top causes of maternal deaths include postpartum hemorrhage, obstructed labor, and eclampsia, when seizures develop from a complication that can cause high blood pressure and organ damage. “Most people view [the deaths] as a punishment from the gods or some kind of witchcraft,” says midwife Ashezi David Alu. “But it’s just a pure act of negligence because of poor management of those complications.”

Now a $2 million Programs of Scale grant from The Rotary Foundation is addressing this problem head on. Its goal is to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by 25 percent in target areas at the end of the three-year program. Known as Together for Healthy Families in Nigeria, the initiative is sponsored by Rotary District 1860 (Germany) in partnership with Districts 9110, 9125, 9141, and 9142 (Nigeria), as well as the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal, and Child Health.

For the rest of the story, click here.