By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
An international non governmental organisation, Ipas, has identified Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world with over 560 maternal deaths per 100,000.
The NGO, which has offices around the world and working towards eliminating unsafe abortion and the resulting deaths and injuries by increasing women’s and girls’ ability to exercise their rights and access to information, noted with regrets that the maternal mortality rate in Nigeria has witnessed little improvement in the recent years.
The Country Director of Ipas, Mr Lucky Palmer revealed this while speaking at a media training workshop in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
Palmer, while disclosing that Ipas currently operates in some States in the country including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abia, Adamawa, Gombe, Jigawa, Ogun, Oyo, Taraba and Kano among others, pointed out that unsafe abortion is a major contribution to Nigeria’s high level of maternal deaths, Ill health and disability.
The country Director however disclosed that Ipas-supported facilities have, since 2012 till date, provided 379, 250 safe abortion procedures, with 40 percent of the procedures provided to women aged 24 and younger.
Continuing, Palmer said, “Fifty-four percent (215,498) of women who received abortion services also received a modern contraceptive method.
“3,349 health workers were trained to provide comprehensive abortion care, post abortion care and or contraceptive care and of these, 1,867 were house officers”, he explained.
The Media training workshop equally took a deep look at the Global Gag Rule (GGR), its implications and consequences on the health of the Nigerian woman.
The GGR is a U.S. policy that prevents NGOs that receive American global health funds from using such monies to provide abortion services and counselling or referrals regarding abortion.
The policy also prohibits such organisations from advocating for abortion law reforms in their country or conduct public campaigns on abortion access, but does not however, prohibit counselling or referrals in the cases of rape, incest or life endangerment; and does not apply to humanitarian funding.
The media practitioners present at the workshop expressed deep concerns that the lives of millions of Nigerian women, who would want to avoid pregnancy, but lacked access to modern contraception, were at serious risk.
In her paper on GGR and its impact on women’s sexual health, Dr (Mrs) Abiola Akiyode Afolabi, of the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), lamented that it (the GGR rule) was limiting women from legally accessing abortion and taking away their right to make informed choices about their future.
Dr Akiyode Afolabi thus suggestwd, strongly, that it was high time to apply creativity in dealing with the issue of sexual violence.
She called for concerted efforts in addressing the issue by opposing the GGR, holding government accountable to increase the country’s health budget, and making available information on the implication of failure to address the issue, as well as support decriminalisation of abortion.