In Africa, women constitute nearly 67 percent of the population, and achieving a better global health condition is contingent upon focusing on their health in general. A woman’s life expectancy at birth in most parts of the world is in the later years of 80. However, in Africa, according to statistics from the World Health Organisation, it is just 54.
The frequency of maternal death in developing countries is almost half a million, with about 66 per cent of these deaths found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty, weak economic capacity, gender-based violence, gender inequity, financial dependence and other factors are militating against the amelioration of female health in Africa.
To adequately cater for the health of women, the health sector, community, public and private health-based organisations need to understand the basic differences between the female and male gender, to identify the potential health risks peculiar to the female gender, and the specific health outcomes and responses.
Various international organisations such as WHO have been dedicated to improving the health and general well being of women, with a special focus on maternal health. Part of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals focused on improving the health and wellbeing of women in Africa.
One of the greatest health challenges faced by women in the Black continent is maternal health, and one of the major factors that contribute to the deterioration of maternal health is lack of education or awareness in some female-specific health challenges.
Most common causes of high mortality rate in women include unsafe abortions, bleeding, hypertension, obstructed labour, sexually transmitted infections and lack of obstetrics care. These are conditions that could be effectively controlled, given diagnosis and proper care.
Lack of knowledge and absence of medical facility in some rural African communities have contributed to increased mortality rate. Other illnesses include fistula, cervical cancer and fibroid, which are specific to females and could be contained upon diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, a lot of females have reportedly died from these as a result of ignorance and lack of enlightenment.
In Nigeria, the health sector and some organisations have taken the bull by the horn. Different symposia and awareness programmes have been organised over the years to enlighten women and encourage them to take charge of their lives, future and bodies by maintaining good health and hygiene.
Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative is one of such. In February, WELTI, in conjunction with Cancer Education and Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, organised an open data day with a focus on cancer, data and female health. The event was designed to educate both younger and older females on cancer and encourage them to have healthy lifestyles. Apart from these, the organisation has engaged in numerous awareness programmes and other beneficial health programmes geared towards improving the overall health of females.
While the government, health practitioners and international organisations continuously strive to improve female health through various means, the roles of the NGOs in ameliorating female health cannot be over-emphasised.
Through WELTI’s activities, more females at the grassroots have been reached and, as such, have benefited immensely from the activities of such organisations.
There is a lot to do if we are looking at reducing maternal mortality rate, and the NGOs have taken a front line in this battle.