The education of mothers has been identified as a fundamental determinant in reducing maternal and child mortality, the latest 2018 report of the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), has revealed.
The survey indicated that education improves capabilities and is strongly associated with various socio-economic variables such as lifestyle, income, and fertility for both individuals and societies.
Speaking during a media dialogue organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, UNICEF Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Maureen Zubie-Okolo said that about 36% of women in Nigeria lacks access to basic education.
While stressing that education plays a big role in the reduction of maternal and child mortality, Zubie-Okolo added that the more educated a mother is, the more likely she is going to take her antenatal visits serious as well as taking her children to immunization.
She said, ‘’Achieving universal primary education is itself a Millennium Development Goal.
‘’This is because educated mothers have been found to use information in a more effective way when caring for children and tend to seek appropriate health care more effectively than mothers who are not educated.
‘Education has also been found to enable mothers to be more autonomous, to resist harmful traditional influences and practices, and to make economic decisions to spend more on caring for children.
‘’Educated mothers are also more likely to change traditional practices such as feeding, childcare practices and make changes in fertility preferences. Maternal education increases women’s involvement in family decisions and increases demand for health services such as antenatal care utilization and institutional delivery.
‘’Educated mothers are also likely to carry out key components of newborn care such as weighing the infant at birth and not giving a prelacteal feed.
‘’Maternal education is also more likely to generate income for the family and increase total family resources. This may be through employment, as educated women are more likely to have paid work than uneducated women’’.
On where Nigeria currently stands in terms of childhood deaths, Zubie-Okolo revealed that Nigeria still contributes greatly to childhood mortality in the region as well as globally.
She stressed the need for government to put in place services and ensure that health policies are implemented accordingly so that women and children at the community level can have uninterrupted access to functional Primary Healthcare Centre’s (PHCs).
“The health policy clearly states the packages for the continuum of care for both women and children; services must run fully in those places to ensure children are immunized.
“There is maternal care and delivery at health facilities and workers in those facilities should be empowered to provide services’’, she added.
She further lamented that despite the awareness, the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation is still an accepted part of many Nigerian cultures.
‘’We have the highest concentration of FGM, the South-East at 35 per cent and 30 per cent in the South-West.
“The prevalence of FGM in South-East States like Ebonyi and Imo and Ekiti State in the South-West is very high but on the other hand, the prevalence of FGM in most of the states in the North is low except Kaduna State, which recorded 46 per cent.
‘’We need to interrogate further to know the culture responsible for the high prevalence of FGM in Kaduna State.
‘’By and large, there has been an improvement and reduction in the prevalence of FGM between 2013 and 2018.
“There has been a lot of efforts by some state governments to collaborate with development partners in order to address the prevalence of FGM.
“There are ongoing interventions and many communities have actually signed up on that. So, we see significant improvement of FGM in the South-East and in the South-West as well,” she added.