When Mr. Obinna Iloh, whose business had suffered a setback in the last few months, received the news that his wife had just been delivered of quadruplets, he was first overwhelmed by bitter-sweet emotions before despair gripped him.
Iloh’s wife, Fidelia, was delivered of four bundles of joy – two boys and two girls — at Isolo General Hospital, Lagos. The quadruplets are named Chidiebube, Chibikem, Chimamaka, and Chimobim.
Four months after, the couple, who have been married for about three years, are still calculating the cost of taking care of four babies in the current harsh economic climate.
Aside from the father’s business struggles, the mother of the quadruplets, Fidelia, who recently completed her compulsory National Youth Service Corps scheme last year, is still unemployed.
“To be frank with you, I wasn’t expecting four babies at a time. At a point, some people advised me to abandon them and run away because of the pressure, but I can’t leave them. These children are God’s gifts to me and I accept them wholeheartedly. But it has not been easy coping with taking care of four of them.” Iloh told SUNDAY PUNCH.
It was the same tale of despair from the young mother of the quadruplets. She said, “Feeding the babies is a challenge. Four of them consume about one and a half tins of milk a day. So, we buy in cartons weekly. Breastfeeding is a challenge. The babies take turns. We do the breastfeeding four times in a day and every baby has a turn, so that everyone can boast that he or she has tasted the breast milk. So I have to eat a lot. When they cry or are sick, it is also a challenge for me. Although my mother came to stay with us for a period, before she left, taking care of four children has not been easy because I have only two hands and two legs.”
She intermittently sighed as she spoke to our correspondent. The graduate of human kinetics and health education is still learning how to cope with nurturing quadruplets.
According to her, they spend over N100,000 for the upkeep of the babies in a month.
Iloh said, “We spend N54, 000 on purchasing only dairy milk for the babies monthly; another N30,000 to pay the nannies, and about N20,000 to take care of other expenses, such as buying fuel for the generator, due to poor electricity in the area where we reside, buying bottled water, as the tap water is not hygienic enough for babies’ consumption. We buy two cartons containing 12 big-sized bottles of water every month. Also, there is the extra cost of drugs (infants get free treatment in general hospitals in Lagos).
“As the babies grow, we are going to be expecting greater challenges, especially in the area of their education and in other aspects. My husband is the sole provider for the family as I don’t have a job yet. So, these expenses have affected our income as a family,” she said.
With their finances already stretched to the limit, the Ilohs have been living on the goodwill of family and friends to cater for the needs of the babies.
“We are just ‘managing’ now. The cartons of (dairy) milk we presently use were given to us by our relatives. But only two tins are left now. We provide other things by ourselves.
The Ilohs are not alone in their predicament. Mrs. Tina Matthew and her husband also face the same challenges like the Lagos-based couple. Mrs. Matthew, who is based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was delivered of quadruplets – all boys — on December 14, 2015. She said raising four babies in the last eight months has been challenging for them.
She said, “It has been challenging economically and otherwise for me and my husband. It is telling on my husband. We are both graduates, but we are self-employed, because of the employment situation in Nigeria today. Power supply is almost non-existent. So, we spend a lot on fuel also. The prices of goods and cost of living have increased in the last few months. We are grateful for the material support we got from the welfare department in Rivers State after their births. But we would appreciate any form of financial assistance; it would go a long way.”
The plight of Oyo-based couple, 36-year-old Razaq Ewenje, and his wife, Shakirat is even dire. Shakirat was delivered of quintuplets – three boys and two girls – on February 15 at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State capital.
The couple now have five children, the quintuplets and two other children – a five-year-old son and a three-year-old girl.
Ewenje, an Islamic cleric, popularly known as ‘alfa,’ does not have a regular job. His wife is also jobless.
He said, “My wife is a full-time housewife. Feeding the babies is even difficult for us now, all the food and material support we got from good Samaritans and well-wishers have been exhausted. We can only depend on God now. I am very afraid of the future because I don’t know how I can take care of their feeding, other needs, and ensure they get good education as they grow up. I don’t want them to grow up and be jobless like me. I was expecting one child, but God just surprised me by giving me five at the same time. We are just managing to feed our babies and survive.
Alfa said he contemplated running away and abandoning his quintuplets after their birth because of the huge responsibilities. “But some people advised me against taking that action. “I also cautioned myself. We really need help. I hope Nigerians can help us,” he said.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence linked economic stress to depression for parents. It further stated that such depression could also lead to poorer parent-child relationship, leading to societal problems.
Aside from their financial needs, the mothers, who are still recovering from the deliveries by Caesarean Section, said the stress of taking care of four babies was taking a toll on their health. Iloh said she was bedridden for three months prior to the deliveries.
A consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist, Dr. Samuel Adebayo, said the mother of the quadruplets would need extra special care to recover well after delivering through caesarean.
He stated, “This is also an expensive venture. Breastfeeding four babies at a time also means the mother has to feed well. In the long run, the physiology and everything about the mother is affected from the stress of coping with taking care of four babies at a time. It could lead to depression.’’
Unlike in Nigeria, developed societies have more robust social welfare programmes for such families, noted a child rights activist, Mrs. Helen Oshikoya. “We don’t have a welfare system and because of that, there is really not much that parents of quadruplets can do; although Lagos State has some sort of welfare services, such as free medical services for children in teaching hospitals and free education, but that is really as far as it goes. So, the child would be born in the same system that we have at the moment, there is nothing extra for the Nigerian child.”
In 2013, a study by the Economic Intelligence Unit ranked Nigeria as the worst place for a baby to be born.
“Coupled with the harsh economic climate in the country, daily living is a struggle for many Nigerians. In times like this, they could leverage on social and community associations for assistance. But the crux of the matter is that the government at the centre should start getting its economic policies right and have social welfare programmes for such families,” said a legal practitioner and political analyst, Mr. Francis Njoku.
“Things are hard for many Nigerians and families like this need to breathe a sigh of relief. Asides from government intervention, insurance companies should be proactive and have policies not only to take care of the dead, but also social welfare programmes for the living, in such situations,” he further said.
A UNICEF report on the impact of economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries, noted that, “Countries should place the well-being of children at the top of their responses to the recession. Not only is this a moral obligation but it is in the self-interest of societies.”
The report also stated that “the impact of the (economic) recession on children, in particular, will be felt long after the recession itself is declared to be over.”
Iloh, who appealed to the wife of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to assist them, added, “As a lady and a mother, she knows how it is to be a mother.”
Although residing in Lagos State, the Ilohs hail from Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State. “Having quadruplets is a thing of joy, and it happened once in a while. Our governor, Willie Obiano, should also lend his support and appreciate our children,” Iloh said.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Femi Ogun, said the Ilohs could write an official letter seeking assistance to the ministry, which would be forwarded to the commissioner.