Home Front Detention of new mums over medical bills rampant – Report

A new report presented by the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) and Centre for Reproductive Rights (CRR) have flayed widespread detention of women who cannot pay medical bills upon delivery.

The report also indicated that the Federal Government has not done much to reduce the high maternal mortality rate from 2008 to date.

Founding director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, who presented the report at a press briefing in Lagos yesterday, noted that a World Health Organisation (WHO) report had in 2015 identified Nigeria as having the world’s fourth-highest maternal mortality rate.

The report on assessing efforts of government on reduction of maternal mortality and promotion of women’s maternal health in Nigeria was supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

It focused on Lagos and Kaduna.

According to the WHO report, there were 814 deaths for every 100,000 live births, a figure that has hardly changed since 2008 when Nigeria reported 829 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

“This is approximately 58,000 maternal deaths annually, indicating that approximately 159 women die every day due to pregnancy related complications.

The report noted that although Nigeria’s population accounts for just over 2% of the world’s population, it is responsible for approximately 19% of the world’s maternal deaths, Akiyode-Afolabi said.

She said access to maternal health facilities is still very poor even as the cases of detention of women who recently or put to birth on account of not being able to pay medical bills remains high.

It would be recalled that in 2014, one Folake Oduyoye was allegedly detained after being successfully treated because her family was unable to pay the medical bill in full.

The case was filed by WARDC and is still at the Federal High Court Lagos.

She described the rampant cases of detention of new mothers as illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of their rights to dignity and freedom from arbitrary detention and non-discrimination.

The director said, “The detention of women who cannot pay their medical bills is widespread. For example, in a study, of 446 women who had given birth at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital in 2012, 98 reported been detained because they could not pay their bills.”

While the report said there has been an improvement in government’s investment in the area of fighting maternal mortality rate in the two states (Kaduna and Lagos), it was observed that more needs to be done to fight the scourge.

It called for the implementation of the National Health Law 2014 with regards to maternal health care which was intended to provide National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for vulnerable groups including women.

“Given the extremely high rate of maternal mortality, the government must take steps to strengthen the implementation and effectiveness of its many initiatives to reduce maternal mortality and to increase access to maternal healthcare,” it added.

The report also recommended that the law on abortion should be reviewed, to ensure that it is in line with the Maputo Protocol and the international human rights standards.

It explained that the high rate of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions and inadequate post-abortion care, particularly among adolescents, low income and rural women, and those without any formal education should be critically looked into.

Akiyode-Afolabi called for reduction of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies among adolescents by addressing barriers to reproductive health services and ensuring that all adolescents in Nigeria receive comprehensive and scientifically accurate sexual and reproductive health education.

She said, “Aside the effects of poverty on health-seeking behaviour of most of the population, delayed access in emergency obstetric care in many health facilities accounts for a great percentage of maternal deaths in Nigeria.

“The low antenatal, delivery and postnatal care attendance rate is indicative of the numerous barriers women and adolescent girls encounter in accessing the services.”


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