Women’s Day 2024: Nigeria’s Universal Health and Reducing Maternal Mortality, by Maureen Ideozu

Women’s Day 2024: Nigeria’s Universal Health and Reducing Maternal Mortality, by Maureen Ideozu


As we celebrate International Women’s Day in 2024 under the theme “Invest in women: Accelerate progress,” it’s imperative to reflect on the progress made towards ensuring women’s health and well-being worldwide. At Seconds for Good (S4G) we view this year’s theme as underscoring the critical importance of investing in women and girls as catalysts for positive change, particularly in the context of Nigeria’s Universal Health Coverage Initiative (NUHCI) and its implications for reducing maternal mortality rates in the country.
Nigeria, like many other nations, faces significant challenges in providing accessible and quality healthcare services to its citizens, particularly women. However, amidst these challenges lies an opportunity for collective action and advocacy towards achieving better health outcomes for women across Nigeria.

When President Ahmed Bola Tinubu on 12 December 2023 launched the Nigeria Health Sector Renewal Investment Initiative, as the world commemorated the Universal Health Coverage Day, we were elated because the initiative represents a bold step towards ensuring that all Nigerians, regardless of their socio-economic status, have access to essential healthcare services without financial hardship. NUHCI encompasses a range of services, including maternal and child health, family planning, immunization, and access to essential medicines. Prioritizing NUHCI, would mean that Nigeria acknowledges the fundamental right of every citizen to access quality healthcare services, a crucial element in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

One of the most pressing issues in Nigeria’s healthcare system is the unacceptably high maternal mortality rate. Being out in the field, providing mobile ante-natal care to women in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp and engaging with women in semi-urban communities as well as workers in local health facilities, we have gathered first-hand knowledge and information on how dire our situation is. So, despite progress in recent years, Nigeria still accounts for a significant proportion of global maternal deaths. Factors contributing to maternal mortality include limited access to skilled birth attendants, inadequate healthcare facilities, cultural practices, and socio-economic disparities. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach that integrates healthcare services, education, community engagement, and policy reform.
Nigeria’s UHC initiative holds immense promise for improving maternal health outcomes across the country. By expanding access to maternal healthcare services, including prenatal care, skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric care, and postnatal support, NUHCI has the potential to significantly reduce maternal mortality rates.

Moreover, it will ensure that women receive timely and appropriate healthcare interventions throughout their pregnancy and childbirth, thereby mitigating the risk of complications and preventable deaths. The response from women during our outreach programmes show that they are willing to attend medical facilities when the conditions are helpful. Some are deterred largely due to economic reasons such as inability to afford transportation, cost of delivery packs, medication, treatment and absence of qualified nurses and doctors.

Call to Action: As we commemorate International Women’s Day 2024, let us reaffirm our commitment to advancing women’s health and rights in Nigeria. It is imperative that stakeholders at all levels—government, healthcare providers, civil society organizations, and communities—collaborate effectively to fast-track the implementation of the Nigerian Universal Health Coverage Initiative. There needs to be increased investment in healthcare infrastructure, human resources, and health education programs tailored to the needs of women and girls. In the meantime, the existing facilities should be resources with qualified personnel, equipment and medication. Government needs to communicate an urgency in ensuring citizens receive good service delivery everywhere it commits its funds.

Furthermore, promoting gender-sensitive policies and eliminating barriers to women’s access to healthcare services are essential steps towards achieving sustainable progress in reducing maternal mortality. Empowering women to make informed decisions about their health, including family planning and reproductive choices, and offering opportunities for inclusion in economic activities is integral to achieving positive health outcomes for mothers and their children.

I conclude by inviting us on International Women’s Day 2024, to celebrate the resilience, strength, and contributions of women in Nigeria and around the world. By championing Nigeria’s Universal Health Coverage Initiative and prioritizing maternal health, we can create a future where every woman has the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Together, let us work towards a Nigeria where no woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth—a Nigeria where women’s health and well-being are safeguarded as a fundamental human right.

Maureen Ideozu is the Founder/Executive Director of Seconds for Good (S4G). She birthed S4G as a way to give back, having survived two among the top causes of maternal mortality. S4G is a non-profit organisation that seeks to support efforts to significantly reduce incidents of maternal mortality in Nigeria through soliciting broad-based support to implement measurable and sustainable initiatives in Nigerian communities.