Expectant mothers in Nigeria prefer religious homes to hospitals

by Odimegwu Onwumere

The indisputable fact that Nigeria is a religious country is even affecting
the psyche of many pregnant women. They have a confidence that with their
faith in their different religions, the aspect of reception to quality
health and family planning are not for them.

This state-of-mind has resulted to a lot of women losing their lives in the
cause of child delivery. The time they ought to have used to visit a
hospital they instead use it to stay in different prayer homes
supplicating, looking for Utopian miracle that most times is elusive.

Most of them have a narrow way-of-thinking, believing that since a woman is
pregnant, the next level is to deliver her of the child. But they are most
times oblivious that there are wobbly situations of pregnancy related
impediments like obstetric fistula, which leads to caesarean section: a
situation that occurs after a woman in labour must have exhausted all
avenues for normal delivery.

Religious faiths quite often make these expectant mothers’ situations very
unfortunate. With an account that 40 percent of the worldwide commonness of
obstetric fistula is counted in Nigeria, there is an evaluation of between
400,000 and 800,000 cases of obstetric fistula, especially in the northern
part of the country and with an indication of 20,000 novel cases per year,
said to be the highest in the world.

It is obvious in Nigeria that many pregnant women do not care for the
health administration system, but religious system for delivery.
Conversely, they forgot or knew, but do not want to accept the fact that,
the later does not ensure a framework supportable on the table of

What these women do not know is that there has never been a time the World
Health Organisation, WHO, or any health body in the world had prescribed
that annual budget for the health sector should go for the religious
organizations for the purpose of child delivery.

Rather, WHO would say that at least 15 per cent of the government’s budgets
should be allocated to the health sector, but especially in the developing
countries, which Nigeria is a part, to enable the much expected result in
health delivery achieved.

The reason most pregnant women still visit the religious bodies
nevertheless does meet the eyes, not minding the epoch where governments at
all levels have continued to make antenatal and postnatal overhauling free
in order to support and sponsor the expectant mothers.

Government has been showing that it has a transformation agenda for the
health sector, even though that such agenda has not been favourable at all
levels, but, at least, it is favouring pregnant women, than any other class
in Nigeria.

As one dodgy religious country, most of the women who have had unfortunate
delivery in the past attribute their woes to being spiritual, especially if
they were befallen by ailment before or after the process of being

Such statement like, ‘God forbid, it is not my portion to suffer this
disease again’, ‘Holy Ghost fire’, are often heard among them, while
looking for solutions to their situations. Many of them diagnosed with
terminal diseases prefer going to their religious organisations and with
the philosophy of, ‘For divine healing’, instead of going for palliative,
rather than elusive curative approach.

Nonetheless, there are people who support the thinking of these women,
because the authorities have not had all the equipments for dealing with
such ailments like cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, and many other
mortal diseases, unlike Uganda which is said to have been only the third
African country to have made morphine obtainable and reasonably-priced to
her patient residents.

Morphine is yet to be accessible in Nigeria and, imagine a pregnant woman
suffering from one of the diseases.

Many Nigerians would not want to be correlated with a pregnant woman, let
alone, the one with a terminal disease. So, some of these women instead of
going to the hospital and be mocked, prefer their religious bodies, where
they believe dishonour and stigmatisation will be on errand and their
situation will not be disclosed to their families and friends, to avoid
family members and friends’ segregation and they may be repaired without
much stress.

In a testimony of May 2004, a Professor of Anaesthesia & Dean, Faculty of
Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, argues that
such behavior against people with terminal diseases is very detrimental.

The professor hinges her point, saying: “The members of the palliative care
team include physicians (family, surgeons, oncologists, radiotherapists,
Palliative care/pain experts), nurses (hospital, community-based, private
duty), pharmacists, social workers, therapists (physiotherapy,
occupational, music and recreational), chaplain, families, friends,
volunteers. The hospice provides palliative care to meet the entire
patient’s needs (emotional, social and spiritual) as well as the needs of
the family.”

Further, connoisseurs argue that as a result that health
practitioners/patients have poor knowledge of soothing care,
individualistic approach becomes fad to the management of terminal
disease-patients, unlike in few countries – South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda,
Kenya, Tanzania, and Egypt – where established care, support/pain control

A description also has it that upon those diseases are global threats, the
stigmatisation that is being shown to victims of deadly diseases in Nigeria
affects the socio-economic progress of the country, as the sufferers
probably miss work and, are unemployed or stop-working early.

From the above explanation, it is not a bolt-from-the-blue why Nigeria
still ranks high the list of countries with towering maternal and infant
mortality rates in the world. Figures from the UN World Population
Prospects and the Institute for Health Metric Reports (2010) are that the
country has a ratio of 545 per 100,000 live births on the maternal
mortality index and 75 per 1000 live births on the infant mortality index.

Aside that the Federal Government budgets about $3m annually to provide
free family planning facilities for Nigerians, it is imperative to say that
many pregnant women will not avoid going to their religious organizations
for total therapeutic solutions to their situations than going for gesture

To deliver Nigeria of this porous morale, however, since these women have
physical, emotional, practical, and spiritual aspects attached to their
religious organizations than in the hospital, it is suggestive that most of
the prayer centres should have visiting or resident medical officials that
will use the opportunity of the women’s belief-system and examine their
pregnancy states. Negative socio-behavioural attitudes in Nigeria against
pregnant women with terminal diseases must be drastically reduced, which
invariably fosters the increase of attendants to religious homes.

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