Nigeria - The Edge of Joy

This project was produced by Woodlawn Avenue Productions.

As Nigeria works to "re-brand" itself from a post-colonial military state to a progressive African democracy, political, civic and professional leaders have recognized the most intractable problem for this emerging society is also its most treatable: maternal and infant mortality. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is comprised of thirty-six states and, with a population of 141 million, is the most populous country in Africa. In 2007, Nigeria passed an important milestone: one elected government passed power peacefully to another for the first time since garnering independence from Britain in 1960. Despite a decade of democracy, in 2010, citizen's of the world's eighth largest oil producer live in grinding poverty, with more than half of the population without access to even basic healthcare. In early 2010, a political vacuum formed when President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua left for a three-month sick leave to Saudia Arabia, prompting a constitutional crisis. Frequent clashes between Muslims and Christians escalated inside this fragile democracy and fueled speculation that the country will split along its religious fault line. Acting president and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, was sworn in as head of state after President Yar'Adua died May 5th, 2010 at his villa in Abuja.

In April 2010, The Lancet published a worldwide study on maternal mortality conducted by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at Washington University. For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop in the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth. From total maternal deaths of roughly 525,000 in 1980 to about 342,900 in 2008, the IHME analyses utilizes new and better country data and a more sophisticated statistical method that draws from birth records, national surveys, censuses and surveys of siblings deaths.

The new findings from 181 countries also show an annual decrease of 1.3% in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR), the ratio of the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. However, Nigeria moved in the opposite direction of this global trend, with a 1.4% increase each year, from 473/100,000 in 1990 to 608/100,000 by 2008. For every woman who dies, twenty will face serious or long-lasting medical problems. Women who survive severe, life-threatening complications often require lengthy recovery times and may face long-term physical, psychological, social and economic consequences. The chronic ill health of a mother puts at risk surviving children, who depend on their mothers for food, care and emotional support. Reducing maternal mortality is one of the targets of the Millennium Development Goal 5 (Improving Maternal Health). It is the Millennium Development Goal that has shown the least progress since 2000, and the one that reveals the greatest disparity between rich and poor.

In the Kano Maternity Ward

Families in Kano, Nigeria struggle to procure blood for mothers suffering from obstetric hemorrhage during delivery. A new blood bank next to the hospital offers hope.

This segment was produced by Outer Voices. The Outer Voices podcast series was made possible with the support of the Schulz Donor Advised Fund of Sonoma County.