Prof. Tinuade Adetutu Ogunlesi, professor of Paediatrics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, has revealed that the current neonatal mortality rate in Nigeria is almost the same as recording five daily air crashes of 150-passenger planes in the country.
Ogunlesi, who revealed this, Wednesday, while delivering the 97th OOU Inaugural Lecture at the Otunba Gbenga Daniel Lecture Theatre, Main Campus, Ago-Iwoye, disclosed that about 275, 000 babies die within the first twenty-eight days of life annually in Nigeria.
According to Don, the infant mortality rate translates to about 750 deaths per day all over the country, adding that this translates to about five air crashes per day with an assumption of 150 passengers per flight.
“The current crude birth rate of 38/1000 in Nigeria translates to roughly 7.6 million live births yearly.
With the current neonatal mortality rate of 36/1000 live births in Nigeria, close to 275,000 babies die within the first twenty-eight days of life every year. These deaths translate to about 750 neonatal deaths per day all over the country!
“If we assume an average plane transports about 150 passengers per flight, 750 neonatal deaths per day may translate to about five air crashes every day! These 750 newborn deaths per day translate to 31 newborn deaths per hour, meaning that a baby dies every other minute in Nigeria. Gruesome as this picture appears, it is our sad reality.”
The lecture entitled, “Ikunle-Abiyamo (Childbirth) and the Twenty-Eight-Day Journey: The Chances and the Choices,” was presided over by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde.
The Professor however called for increased funding of Nigeria’s health sector to make its primary health care system function optimally and curb the growing mortality rate of newborn babies.
Ogunlesi, who is also a neonatal medicine physician at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, asked state governments to judiciously invest in the establishment of neonatal intensive care units to improve access to advanced facilities instead of expending funds on bullet-proof vehicles for politicians and political officeholders.
According to him, establishing a neonatal intensive care unit is capital intensive, but N200 million Naira used to buy a bulletproof car for politicians would be enough to equip a 35-cot facility.
He said, “Establishing and maintaining a neonatal intensive care unit is capital intensive, but a modest estimate of two hundred million naira will satisfactorily equip a 35-cot facility. Ironically, a bullet-proof vehicle for just one political office holder will also cost about two hundred million naira.
“While the need for such cars is not under contention, the government and people should weigh the benefit of the expenditure for a single political office holder against the benefits hundreds of babies may derive from the same amount of money if judiciously used to provide neonatal intensive care service.”
According to the inaugural lecturer, the primary health care system in Nigeria does not function optimally and there is a need to address the problem towards stopping needless preventable deaths of infants.
Ogunlesi observed that the better survival rate of newborn babies and under-five children in developed countries was as a result of the availability of facilities, equipment, skills, and infrastructure provided through efficient health insurance schemes.
While explaining that lack of adequate funding remains the bane of efficient perinatal and neonatal care service in Nigeria, the erudite scholar recommended the expansion of the scope of the existing National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the country to include newborn care.
He also urged experts in sociology, insurance and public sector economy to assist with developing appropriate community-based insurance models for the nation’s health sector. Ogunlesi said, “Given the limited coverage of the NHIS, the community-based health insurance models appear to be the most attractive alternative. Local cooperative societies are thriving in the most remote communities and are often over-subscribed. Similarly, members of local trade guilds make daily contributions with which they successfully run their associations.
“Health administrators can also deploy these methods into funding community-based health insurance schemes. It may be a lot easier for Nigerians in the middle and lower socioeconomic strata to contribute a token of a hundred naira every day as they do for guild or association fees than to pay a lump sum of three thousand naira per month into a health insurance scheme.
“If newborn health care cannot be provided free of charge, the health administrators should deploy the various health insurance schemes highlighted above and more. These innocent babies deserve to be saved so they can ‘flourish, multiply and replenish the earth.’ Children are voiceless, and only these professional bodies can convincingly speak for them.”