Unacceptable Reality of Child Mortality in Nigeria

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Nigeria faces a significant challenge with child mortality. Despite progress in recent years, the rate of children dying before reaching age five remains high. 

The Child mortality rate refers to the number of children dying before reaching a certain age, typically expressed as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. It's usually broken down into two categories:

  • Under-five mortality rate: This is the most common metric and refers to the number of children who die before their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births.

  • Infant mortality rate: This is a subcategory that specifically looks at deaths in the first year of life per 1,000 live births.

Every child deserves a fighting chance. This article explores the current situation, contributing factors, and efforts to reduce child mortality.

Current Situation:

According to UNICEF, Nigeria's under-five mortality rate is around 117 deaths per 1,000 live births. This means roughly one in eight children doesn't survive to their fifth birthday.

The infant mortality rate is also concerning, at approximately 74 deaths per 1,000 live births. This translates to one in 13 Nigerian children dying before their first birthday.

Contributing Factors:

Several factors contribute to Nigeria's high child mortality rate:

  1. Limited Access to Healthcare: Unequal access to quality healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas, hinders essential services like prenatal care, skilled birth attendance, and proper childhood immunisations.

  1. Malnutrition: Children suffering from malnutrition have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections and diseases. Also, Poverty by limiting access to healthy food, makes this problem even worse.

  1. Poor Sanitation or Hygiene: Inadequate hygiene practices increase the risk of diarrheal diseases and other illnesses, especially among children. Contaminated water and improper waste disposal contribute significantly.

  1. Neonatal Disorders: Complications arising in the first 28 days after birth, such as premature birth, birth defects, or complications during delivery, are a major cause of child mortality.

  1. Lower Respiratory Infections: Pneumonia and other lung infections pose a significant threat, especially for young children with weakened immune systems due to malnutrition or a lack of vaccinations.

  1. Diarrhoeal Diseases: Contaminated water and poor sanitation practices can lead to severe diarrhoea, causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which can be fatal for young children.

  1. Malaria: This mosquito-borne disease remains a major concern in Nigeria, particularly for children under five whose immune systems are still developing.

  1. Gender Disparity: Girls may have a harder time getting the healthcare and healthy food they need compared to boys. This difference can negatively impact their overall health.

  1. Lack of Awareness: Limited knowledge about hygiene practices, childhood illnesses, and the importance of preventive measures can contribute to child mortality.

  1. Poverty: This is a major underlying factor that limits access to healthcare, nutritious food, clean water, and sanitation facilities, all of which are crucial for child survival.

Efforts to Reduce Child Mortality:

The Nigerian government, international organisations, NGOs, and communities are working to address these challenges and improve child health outcomes through the following key initiatives:

Improving access to healthcare:

  • Expanding healthcare facilities: Building more hospitals and clinics, particularly in rural areas, increases access to essential services. 

  • Training more health workers: Investing in training programmes for doctors, nurses, and midwives ensures a sufficient workforce to deliver quality care.

  • Promoting community-based healthcare programs: Empowering local communities with healthcare knowledge and resources improves child health outcomes at the grassroots level.

Promoting maternal health:

  • Investing in prenatal care: Providing regular checkups and guidance during pregnancy reduces complications and improves birth outcomes. 

  • Skilled birth attendance: This is crucial for the survial of infants. Ensuring child delivery are attended by skilled healthcare professionals minimises risks for both mother and child.

  • Postnatal care: Offering support and checkups after childbirth helps identify and address potential health issues for mothers and newborns.

Combating malnutrition:

  • Food security programs: Initiatives that address poverty and improve access to nutritious food are crucial for child development and immune system health.

  • Promoting Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding provides essential nutrients and antibodies that protect newborns and infants from infections.

  • Dietary diversification: encouraging a wider variety of healthy foods in children's diets ensures they receive the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive.

Improving sanitation and hygiene:

  • Water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs: Promoting access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene practices significantly reduces the spread of diseases that contribute to child mortality.

  • Hygiene education campaigns: Raising awareness about the importance of proper handwashing, sanitation practices, and safe food handling behaviours empowers communities to protect children's health.

Other essential additional efforts include

  • Vaccinations: Ensuring childhood vaccinations protects children from preventable diseases that can be fatal.

  • Social welfare programs: Providing financial assistance to poor families allows them to better afford healthcare and nutritious food for their children.

  • Community education: Raising awareness about the importance of preventive measures, healthy behaviours, and seeking timely medical care is crucial for improving child health outcomes.

Conclusively, reducing child mortality in Nigeria requires a multi-pronged approach. Continued investment in healthcare infrastructure, improved access to essential services, and addressing underlying factors like poverty and malnutrition are crucial. By working together, the government, international organisations, and communities can create a future where every child in the country has the opportunity to survive and thrive.

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