Pregnant and homeless - Being pregnant in an IDP camp

Ijeoma explores the fears and hopes of women who became pregnant, the effect of their pregnancies on the statistics of maternal and newborn health and attainment of SDGs in Nigeria.

From the day of conception to the delivery day, pregnant women experience a lot of changes in their body system. This could range from of an increase in craving for food, feeling nauseous, tenderness/enlargement of the breasts, morning sickness, backache, protrusion of the abdomen to the pains associated with birthing.  These are some of the biological changes that would take place in their 37-40 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnancy before 37 and 40 weeks requires extra attention because every newborn delivered before 37 weeks of gestation period has a greater chance of developing complications such as breathing problems or low blood sugar that may result in being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.

To prevent such experience, at least 4 visits to antenatal care services are prescribed. Antenatal Care is the assessment and care of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

In 2012, 30 million women in developing countries experienced obstetric complications source, but the large majority of these women did not receive the care they needed. 46 million newborns experienced complications, more than half of who did not receive needed care.

Antenatal care services play an important role in achieving a successful labour and pregnancy delivery.

Bearing all these in mind, I couldn’t stop wondering about the fate of pregnant women at Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) across Nigeria. I became so concerned about their health and that of their unborn babies when I visited one of the camps in Abuja, and the effect that it would have on the rate of maternal and newborn mortality in Nigeria.

It appears that we have a new setback against our struggle to improve maternal and newborn health.

I visited Gwoza Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Durumi, Abuja, where I saw pregnant women all over the place. Some were at the early stage of pregnancy while some looked like they would deliver their babies at any time. As a young lady, passionate about maternal and newborn survival, I got interested in their health and wellbeing on the camp, so I spoke to some of them.

Amina Lawal, a 27-year-old mother of four, who was displaced from her town, Gwoza, in Borno State by the Boko Haram terrorists, took in on the camp. She told me that she was 9 months pregnant, but had never attended any antenatal care service. She also said that she couldn’t afford to feed herself, not to mention affording to pay for transportation to a hospital to register and attend antenatal care.

Under her current situation, Amina only relied on the support she hoped to get from other women on the camp. She said

I will put to bed soon and I hope the women in the camp will be able to help me deliver when the time comes.

  • Ijeoma and Amina at Internally Displaced Persons' camp talking about pregnancy

I no know how many months this my belle dey, as I never attend antenatal since I get the belle. No money to go hospital as the only one wey dey here far for us.

said Felicia, a mother who lost her first child to the Boko Haram terrorists attack. She was so excited about her pregnancy.One would ask, what about the husbands of the pregnant women, why couldn’t they provide for their wives? Then I thought to myself that they were both on the camp, with the same predicament of displacement and its attendant hardship, where life must go on.

The Millennium Development Goals have come to an end and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the new song on everybody’s lips. How do we ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages (goal 3) or reduce global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, which is the 1st target of goal 3 on the SDGs, when, in a community, all the pregnant women do not have access to antenatal care services?

How would the target 2 of Goal 3, which is aimed at ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, within all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 be met when these women do not have access to antenatal care services and their babies would not have a chance of being immunised?

This is a huge challenge that needs to be met. These women did not choose to be displaced, but how can their dignity and faith in the country be restored if they are left with nothing to show that they matter, if they are just left for death after escaping it once from the terrorists?

It has now become very important for the government to provide basic Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EmONC) services close to those camps, where the pregnant women can access the services of skilled birth attendants.

This has gone beyond just providing them with food.  Yes, they need food to survive but they also must be in good health to remain alive.

Civil Society Organisations who work in the areas of Maternal, Newborn and Child health need to beam their light on these women. The women need necessary information about their pregnancies, their health and their survival.

We must not open a new door to situations that will impede efforts to reduce the rate of maternal and newborn mortality in Nigeria. 

Written by Ijeoma Oforka, Intern, MamaYe Nigeria.

Follow Ijeoma @eyejay

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