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The World Health Organisation’s report by National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) in 2018 shows that Nigeria has 512 in 100,000 live births and newborn mortality at 39 per 1000 live births.

The report also shows that a similar picture is seen in the African Region as Africa accounts for nearly seven out of 10 maternal deaths and one out of 3 newborn deaths globally.

The Country Representative of WHO, Dr Walter Kazadi, in his message to mark 2021 World Patient Safety Day revealed that the major causes of death among pregnant women and mothers are postpartum hemorrhage, hypertensive diseases, and sepsis.

Kazadi also disclosed that premature birth, babies not getting enough oxygen during birth, and infections are the top causes of death among newborns.

World Patient Safety Day is celebrated every year on 17 September, to raise awareness of the importance of people-centred care and preventing harm to patients.

The theme for this year 2021 is “Safe maternal and newborn care” with a campaign to “Act now for safe and respectful childbirth.”

According to Kazadi, “this is very apt as Nigeria continues efforts to ensure safe birth and reduce the high maternal and newborn mortality in the country. I echo the thoughts of the Regional Director, WHO AFRO Dr Moeti Matshidiso that ‘many of these deaths could be prevented by making sure patients feel safe, respected and that their needs are heard and acted on, and by equipping the health workers with the knowledge, skills and tools to take life-saving action.’

“We need to do everything to stop the preventable deaths by ensuring our health facilities provide high quality, safe and effective healthcare. Women are confronted with a range of challenges as patients. They oftentimes face physical and verbal abuse and exclusion from decision-making about their care,” he stated.

Kazadi citing instances such as during childbirth said most of Nigeria’s healthcare settings are not set up to allow for pregnant women to have their choice of having a birth companion present or to deliver in their preferred birthing position. New-born rights, to quality care for example, largely go unprotected.

“The situation was made worse during the pandemic as some people have avoided seeking care in health facilities, for fear of catching COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. To combat this hesitancy, health systems need to work on building community trust and invest more in good infection prevention and control practices.

“This includes investing in access to clean water, sanitation and medical waste disposal systems, doing regular refresher training with health workers, and making sure sufficient quantities of gloves, masks and other protective equipment are available.

“Care should be provided with compassion and respect, by health workers with the skills to succeed, and in clean and safe environments that prevent the spread of infections,” he said.

Kazadi further said WHO is working with countries to make this happen by implementing the WHO Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021 to 2030.

“We praise Government of Nigeria’s effort in establishing the Patient bill of rights and efforts to develop a National Patient safety policy. WHO is also providing support to Government of Nigeria to develop a national quality policy and strategy that will ensure the quality of care provided to patients including pregnant women and their newborn babies.

“In the past 3 years, WHO has been providing technical support to the government as part of the WHO-led Quality, Equity and Dignity (QED) network with the aim of halving maternal and newborn mortality by 2030.

“So far, 112 Health facilities across 12 States and FCT are on the network with the support of WHO and other development partners. There have been demonstrable results in not just reducing maternal and newborn mortality but also improving the experience of care of mothers when they access to care in health facilities.

“WHO is supporting the government to enlarge this intervention to the private sector with a recent scoping mission on the mechanism for engagement of private sector for QOC. By engaging patients as partners in the provision of quality care, health systems will make tangible progress towards Universal Health Coverage; the voice of patients and their feedbacks must matter in healthcare provision.

“There is a need for more investment to ensure we not only save lives of women and children but also to improve their experience of healthcare. This will birth trust in the system and could in turn improve the health-seeking behaviour of the populace.

“So, this World Patient Safety Day, I encourage all stakeholders, governments, civil society, the private sector, health workers and communities to speak up for patient safety and to act now for safe and respectful childbirth,” he said.

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