Nuns work to decrease deaths of mothers, children in Nigeria
By Valentine Iwenwanne – A Catholic diocese and nuns are working to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth and the number of children who die young, and a hospital administrator said it does not take expensive technology.
The Medical Missionaries of Mary run Mile Four Hospital for the Diocese of Abakaliki. Many of the sisters are doctors and nurses.
“There is no high technology needed to stop maternal mortality,” said Sister Charity Munonye, the hospital administrator. “All it takes to prevent maternal death is antenatal care, skilled birth attendant before, during and after child delivery, and that is what we do at Mile Four Hospital.”
The programs the hospital runs include comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care and essential newborn care. Their prenatal clinics are held at the hospital and in their wide outreach program.
The sisters have clinics that monitor the health of children under 5. These clinics provide nutritional support and participate in a national immunization program.
Drama is used as an educational tool at all the clinics, in education talks and workshops.
Georgenia Ndulaka, a nurse at the hospital, says every pregnant woman wants to deliver her baby alive, return to her home and celebrate with family and friends.
“Since the woman wants to be alive with her baby, she comes to register for her antenatal care, meaning that the woman will want to be attended to by a skilled birth attendant during the delivery,” she told Catholic News Service.
Ngozi Enu, a staff midwife who oversees the family planning department, told CNS she and her team introduce couples to the hospital’s natural family planning program as soon as they register for delivery and give them lectures after delivery. In a situation where the husband shows resistance, “we enroll the husband, too, and tell him the importance of child spacing and be in control of how many children to give birth to. It’s a combined class that requires teamwork for both husband and wife.”
She said they also work to discredit rumours, such as the idea that intercourse is not possible during breastfeeding, in an effort to help couples avoid infidelity.
The World Bank says Nigeria has the fourth-highest maternal mortality ratio in the world. Out of 100,000 deliveries, nearly 1,000 women die.
Sister Evelyn Akhalumenyo, a medical officer at the hospital, said maternal and neonatal needs are on the rise due to Nigerian women’s ignorance in knowing what to do when they are pregnant and because of the actions of unskilled birth attendants.
One of the hospitals’ mandates was “specifically to reduce the complications that women go through while giving birth and reduce their mortality rate, including that of their babies.”
“Even though we are consecrated women in the Catholic Church, our aim is to provide the medical needs of those we are called to serve. We are missionaries, which means we work in all departments, especially in departments where the need is great, and we are also dedicated to Mary, the mother of God,” Sister Akhalumenyo told CNS.
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