Press Release

“No woman must die giving life – making every maternal death count”

4 Mins read

The “Giving Birth In Nigeria” project in Kebbi, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Lagos, Niger and the FCT is to understand why women die in pregnancy and birth.

Lagos, April 12, 2019 A consortium consisting of Africare, EpiAFRIC, and Nigeria Health Watch with support from MSD for Mothers is launching an 18-month project called “Giving Birth In Nigeria”. The project will focus attention on the issue of catalysing accountability for maternal mortality[1]. We want to ensure that the death of every woman related to pregnancy or in childbirth is made to count; no woman should die giving life.

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa one in seven of the 358,000 global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria. That is more than 50,000 women dying needlessly per year in Nigeria. Ninety-five percent of deaths in childbirth are preventable.  Delays in seeking care, reaching care, and receiving care are the leading causes of unattended births and ultimately death.

Only a third of Nigerian women deliver in a facility or attended by someone skilled.  Many deliveries and maternal deaths therefore remain underreported and unexplained.  Without a strong national maternal death surveillance and response system in place, the number and causes of maternal deaths taking place in facilities and communities are poorly understood.  The nascent Maternal and Perinatal Deaths Surveillance and Response (MPDSR) approach provides the means to understand the underlying causes and factors that lead to maternal and perinatal deaths and develop solutions to save the lives of women and children.  MPDSR does not currently reach down to communities yet, which have important knowledge about factors contributing to maternal deaths, particularly those that occur outside of facilities.  Yet systems are not in place to engage communities to understand capture or report those deaths.

The aim of this project is to develop, test and implement approaches that incorporate the community voice in maternal death reporting and surveillance efforts, with a view towards making all maternal deaths count.  This process will feed into the current MPDSR system and broaden efforts to raise awareness about why women are dying and promote accountability for capturing the deaths. The “Giving Birth In Nigeria” project will look into understanding the underlying causes of maternal deaths by developing and implementing a community reporting mechanism that captures data and the personal stories of maternal deaths and directs them to existing MPDSR platforms, raising public awareness of Nigeria’s maternal mortality burden.  It aims to ensure the underlying causes of maternal deaths are recorded, understood and action taken to address and prevent future deaths. The consortium will focus these activities in six states of the nation: Kebbi, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Lagos, Niger and the FCT to ensure that all six geopolitical zones are covered.  This will enable a depth and breadth of information from varying contexts within Nigeria to inform further action.

“We need to think outside the box – and the walls of the hospital – to reduce the numbers of mothers who are dying in childbirth”, says Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead and Executive Director of MSD for Mothers. “Too many deaths are still occurring in the community. We believe that the ‘Giving Birth in Nigeria’ project will support communities to play a critical role in informing collective action to ensure safer childbirth for all Nigerian women.”   

On the objectives of the project, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, CEO of EpiAFRIC says: “We know why women die during pregnancy, child birth and 42 days after birth. It is such an inequity that despite this knowledge, 60,000 women still die yearly in Nigeria. Through the “Giving Birth in Nigeria” project, we will ensure that this knowledge leads to the survival of women in the communities where the project will be implemented”.

We enjoin the media and others to leverage their platforms and amplify the stories of maternal deaths in communities, bringing to light the roles of community leaders, religious groups, traditional birth attendants, midwives and family units in the maternal delivery pathway.



Africare is the largest and oldest international NGO focused exclusively on Africa.  Since 1971, Africare has delivered more than $1 billion in assistance to tens of millions in over 2,500 projects in 36 countries across the African continent. Through direct community engagement, Africare has nurtured valuable relationships with key local leaders ranging from community / traditional to presidents and ministries. Africare centres its development approach around active community participation, and partners with local organizations to ensure institutional strengthening and capacity building. Africare is the premier NGO committed to helping African people build sustainable, healthy and productive communities.


EpiAFRIC is a globally competitive, efficient, transparent and financially sustainable African health consultancy group. EpiAFRIC’s consulting work focuses on improving population health through expert research and data analysis, project design and evaluation, health communication, advocacy and training. EpiAFRIC enables ready access to expertise in public health; epidemiology; research; advisory services and post graduate professional development.

Nigeria Health Watch

Nigeria Health Watch is a not-for-profit organization that aims to advocate for the health of Nigerians, strengthen the capacity of health sector organisations, enlighten Nigerians on good health habits and practices and engage and support government and other partners to formulate and implement positive and effective health policies. Its dual strengths in health and communication enables it to provide solutions for communications and advocacy in the health sector.

This project is supported and funded by:

MSD for Mothers

MSD for Mothers is MSD’s $500 million initiative to create a world where no woman dies giving life. Contributing scientific and business expertise, as well as financial resources, MSD for Mothers works to ensure that women have access to two of the most powerful means to end preventable maternal deaths: quality maternity care and modern contraception. MSD for Mothers is an initiative of Merck & Co., Inc. Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A.

For more information, visit or contact: Bunmi Oyebanji on

[1] Maternal Mortality is defined by the World Health Organization as “the death of the woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes” (World Health Organization 2014).

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