How Maternal Deaths Are Caused By Human Rights Violations

If a planeload of people died in a crash every day, we’d all be in an uproar. Yet few people are even aware that an equivalent number of pregnant Nigerian women die every day. According to a study published by the Center for Reproductive Rights, 59,000 pregnant Nigerian women die each year due to an inept government and human rights violations.

This study, titled Broken Promises: Human Rights, Accountability, and Maternal Death in Nigeria (PDF), blames the Nigerian government for failing to uphold basic human rights. “That so many women die due to pregnancy related complications can be directly attributed to political and economic factors the government has the power to address,” reads the summary of the report.

Of course, these political and economic factors are huge issues that are difficult to resolve quickly. Responsibility for providing health care is split between three levels of the Nigerian government—which leads to none of these levels actually taking charge of the issue. Add to this an unwillingness on the part of the government to adequately fund health care, plus systemic corruption within the government, and it’s not hard to see why most Nigerians don’t realize the power of their country’s oil wealth.

How can we remedy this situation? The report’s recommendations are many and complicated, including:

  • Strengthening Nigeria’s human rights framework.
  • Establishing effective accountability mechanisms to ensure that, when appropriate, public officials are subject to investigation and liability for corruption.
  • Improving access to information within the health-care system.
  • Improving access to family planning services, including a full range of contraceptive methods.
  • Removing financial barriers that result in the denial of or delays in receiving necessary health-care services.
  • Developing a comprehensive strategy to address infrastructural problems, including equipment and supply shortages.
  • Reducing incidents of unsafe abortion, which is one of the primary causes of maternal mortality for women.

Discouraged by the vast scope of these problems yet? There is a silver lining, which Elisa Slattery points out in On The Issues Magazine: “Fortunately, maternal mortality is increasingly being recognized as a human rights catastrophe.”

You can stay on top of what’s happening through The Center for Reproductive Rights, a leading global reproductive rights advocacy group, by joining their free mailing list or by making a donation.