Unattainable Goals

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A crowded antenatal clinic
A crowded antenatal clinic

Nigerian women are still struggling to make the Millennium Development Goals, MDG, work for them

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Jan. 28, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

WITH two years to the 2015 deadline, countries that are signatory to the millennium development goals, MDG, are expected to fulfill their pledge to improve the lot of their citizens. But Nigeria may not meet the deadline to improve on some MDG goals like maternal mortality, gender inequality and empowerment. These issues are still of great concern to Nigerian women.

There are two goals in the list of eight designed to attend to the special needs of women in the MDG. One is aimed at improving maternal health. Second is gender equality and empowerment. But indicators to the attainment of these goals are not looking up especially as it concerns maternal mortality. The reason is not far-fetched  The doctor-patient-ratio in government hospitals is still very disturbing.

Patience Jonathan, promised Nigerian women a better deal
Patience Jonathan, promised Nigerian women a better deal

A recent visit to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, revealed a huge crowd of pregnant mothers struggling to access the limited facilities and doctors available there. In some hospitals, there were no doctors to attend to the women thereby leaving the burden on the nurses. At the Ajuwon Health Clinic in Ogun State, pregnant women who had complications were given referral notes to other hospitals because the clinic does not have a resident doctor. “This has given rise to many women patronising unskilled health workers to handle the delivery of their babies”, Azizi Akyala, a woman coordinator in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, said.

But even birth deliveries supposedly handled by skilled health workers, sometimes end up in tragedy. On January 1, this year, Yoruba movie fans were jolted with the news that Bisi Komolafe, one of its star actresses, had died in the process of child delivery at the University College Hospital, UCH, in Ibadan, Oyo State. In Kaduna, Blessing Okama, a housewife, had a still birth in a government hospital that handled her antenatal care. This disturbing trend gives the indication that the MDG target in Nigeria may not be realised.

But the periodic assessment records obtained from the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, said the country’s maternal health indices were looking up. “Recent progress towards this goal is promising. Maternal mortality fell by 32 per cent, from 800 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2003 (at the time one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world) to 545 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008”, the report said, adding: “However, the proportion of births attended by skilled health workers has remained low and threatens to hold back further progress.”

Another programme designed to empower women is the goal three, which is to promote gender equality and empower women. The target is to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education at all levels by 2015, to shore up the number of women in wage employment, increase the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament and government appointments. But two years to the target date, women continue to dominate the informal employment with its lack of benefits and security while top-level jobs go to men.

Although women are slowly rising to political power in Nigeria, an international consultant on women issues, who wishes anonymity, said that more needs to be done to empower women. “We have just six per cent representation of women in national elective offices as at 2011…. The current federal government has complied with regard to cabinet appointments (counting ministers and special assistants) but not yet for board appointments. Unfortunately, state governments have not.” she said.

In assessing the overall performance of government as regard the MDG on women, she said government would not likely meet any of the goals. “Certainly, not with regard to gender equality. Maternal and child health goals are not also looking good either,” she said.

But one great advocate of women empowerment is Patience Jonathan, the Nigerian first lady, who has vowed to continue to press for a better deal for women in terms of political appointments. She said women are pivotal for national growth and would give her voice to support the empowerment of women at all times.

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