Osotimehin told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of an award dinner organized by the Nigeria Health Foundation in Newark, U.S.
The UNFPA chief said people should insist that both local and state governments must deliver healthcare to them.
According to him, if people fail to hold government accountable as far as healthcare is concerned the nation’s health problems will continue to persist.
“In the present job I have, it is very painful for me that I would hear and I would see women die during childbirth, as minister and as a doctor.
“I have seen women die needlessly because they don’t have care and because they don’t get care.
“So a woman who is in labour goes into a care centre and she bleeds to death. This is totally unacceptable.
“Those are things that in present day world must not occur at all. These are not things we cannot prevent.
“We cannot and should not ever leave everything to the hands of the government,” he said.
Osotimehin, who was a one-time Nigeria’s Minister of Health, regretted that government had become disconnected from the people and urged well-meaning individuals and organizations to come to governments’ aid.
“We must take charge of our lives and of our people and I want us to all go back to our communities; make sure that we connect with our people.
“We must make sure we hold our state and local government accountable to deliver care to our people so that at the end of the day, each one of them will have what they deserve in terms of healthcare.”
He pointed out that in Rwanda, the rate of maternal mortality had been drastically reduced, urging other African countries to learn from the country’s healthcare system.
“Rwanda is one country that met most of the Millennium Development Goals. You know why? Because of accountability.
“If a woman dies in labour in Rwanda, the doctor who is attending to that woman is obliged to send a text to the Minister of Health the moment she dies.
“And you must send the text and tell the minister why the woman dies. That’s not all, they would investigate it.
“If they find that you were negligent, then they must punish you because life is not something we play with; life is what we all doctors are trained to preserve and to save.
“We lose patients not because we want to lose them but if you lose a patient because you are careless, then you must be punished,” he said.
According to him, people must be accountable in whatever they do, whether in the health or any other profession.
Accountability, he said, should be the watchword in health.
“There’s no reason why a nurse should not be at work. There’s no reason why a doctor should not be at work.There’s no reason why a pharmacist should not be there. There’s no reason why drugs should not be available.
“There’s no reason why a child should die of malaria or a woman should die giving birth.Those are things that in today’s world and in today’s Nigeria, we can look at them and be sure that we accomplish.
“And to say we must go beyond that; we must also make each one of us accountable for what we do in practice, in medicine and in every sphere of our lives,” Osotimehin said.