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Project June 10, 2024

Rural Women Bear the Brunt of Nigeria’s Health Care Crisis


Women in a compound used to illustrate a story. Image by Taiwo Adebulu. Nigeria, 2024.
Women in a compound used to illustrate a story. Image by Taiwo Adebulu. Nigeria, 2024.

Nigeria’s health care sector is going through one of the worst brain drains in its history, as half of its registered doctors and health professionals have fled abroad for greener pastures. Yet, the country’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world — second-highest after India.

Available data shows that the doctor-patient ratio is 1:6,000. The Nigerian Medical and Dental Council’s registry shows 30,000 doctors in the country, which caters to about 200 million people in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), however, said about 80,000 Nigerians have been trained as doctors, but only an estimated 40,000 are at home.

In Kano, Nigeria’s most populous state, only 1,300 medical doctors serve its estimated 15 million population. In Adamawa state, it is one doctor to 13,000 people.

The NMA said the situation has become worse as more health care professionals desert the country, citing poor remuneration, an inefficient work environment, and constant abduction and killing of doctors. The association said about 10,296 Nigerian-trained doctors currently practice in the United Kingdom.

The mass exodus of health professionals from Nigeria, according to NMA, is causing a surge in maternal and infant mortality rates. In 2017, the WHO estimated Nigeria's maternal mortality rate at 917 per 100,000 live births; it increased by nearly 14% in 2020 to reach 1,047 deaths.

This reporting project examines the situation in rural communities in Kano and Oyo states, where women now resort to unsafe herbal medicine and traditional birth attendants.



navy halftone illustration of a female doctor with her arms crossed


Health Inequities

Health Inequities