We need sustained commitment, influx of resources and effort to curb maternal, newborn & child deaths-Dr. Isabella Sagoe-Moses
The Deputy Director for Reproductive and Child Health Unit, Family Health Division, Ghana Health Service(GHS), Dr. Isabella Sagoe-Moses has observed it would only require sustained commitment, influx of resources and concerted effort of everyone towards realization of downward trend of maternal, newborn and child death cases in Ghana.
Dr. Sagoe-Moses, while recalling an instance in the past where Ghana witnessed recurrence of a ‘downward- upward” trend in neonatal and infant mortality cases recorded in its history which resulted in loss of newborns in the country sternly warned:
“If we’re are not careful what we saw in the past where we’ve moved down only to go up again, we don’t want that again, we want to keep going up till we meet the target”.
She made this observation while briefing the media on the National Newborn and Child Health Advocacy and Communication Strategy at the Accra International Press Centre on Thursday August 30, 2018.
The session which brought together a cross-section of the media was initiated by the Ghana Health Service(GHS) with support from the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, PATH Ghana including other partners.
Ghana’s efforts at reducing under-five mortality to meet the 2015 target for MDG 4 suffered a setback due to stagnation and increase in neonatal mortality which increased from 30 to 32 per 1000 live births from 2008 to 2011.
As a result, neonatal deaths became an important component of under-five deaths, accounting for as high as 40% of under-five mortality in Ghana.
Despite a number of initiatives and frameworks developed and executed by the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to address the problem of high under-5 mortality, including the Under Five Child Health Policy3, Under Five Child Health Strategy4, Ghana MDG Acceleration Framework and Country Action Plan: Maternal Health5, and Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI)6 with introduction of new and additional vaccines, as well as projects supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the problem still persists.
It is under this light the Advocacy and Communication Strategy has been developed to position newborn and child deaths as a national emergency requiring immediate and urgent joint stakeholder/sectoral action from the national level to community level, in an effort to achieve the goal of the National Newborn Health Strategy: to reduce the neonatal mortality rate from 32 per 1000 live births in 2011 to 21 per 1000 live births in 2018 (5%/year) as well as contribute to the reduction of institutional neonatal mortality rate by at least 35% by 2018.
Addressing the media on the highlights of the National Newborn and Child Health Advocacy and Communication Strategy, Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses explained, the strategy was developed to fill the gap in the socio-cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices which contribute to newborn death after a bottleneck analysis was performed leading to its development.
She maintained it is expected to help tackle the three leading causes of newborn death which are infection, prematurity and asphyxia (a condition arising when newborns are deprived of oxygen, causing unconsciousness or death as a result of suffocation) in the country with the aim of reducing the maternal, newborn and child death rates drastically to the barest minimum level.
According to her, the strategy seeks to strengthen advocacy, communication and social mobilization, and other community-based interventions that contribute to improved newborn and child health in the country.
Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses called for a sustained commitment on part of the general public, the media and other stakeholders to support any move likely to cause the smooth execution of the strategy towards achieving its set target.
“We need sustained advocacy, commitment and continuous influx of resources to keep newborn health issues high on the national agenda and towards realization of its downward trend in order to achieve the set targets of the National Newborn Strategy and Action Plan”.
For her part, Chairman of the Newborn Advocacy and Communication Committee at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Martey noted a lot has been achieved in improving newborn healthcare delivery in the country over the past years but hinted that scale up of proven interventions will ensure that newborn survive and thrive going forward.
According to her, the rise in neonatal deaths (40% of children U-5 mortality) situation in Ghana is a great cause of worry and therefore calls for intensive and discerning communication efforts as well as urgent joint stakeholder action from the national to the community level, urging all and sundry to demonstrate commitment and support the call to curb it.
Touching on the issue of care for newborns, she advised parents and caregivers to avoid bathing babies immediately after birth to avoid exposing them to infections.
Identifying the popular maxim: “If you don’t bath your babies immediately after delivery, they will grow up smelling with bad odor as a ‘misconception’ she warned parents and caregivers sternly against the practice, adding, “it rather exposes babies to danger”.
Dr. Maureen Martey who also doubles as a Public Health Physician Specialist at Ministry of Health appealed to parents to collaborate with caregivers so as to help administer childhood vaccines to protect children from diseases that could kill them.
She also advised parents to always endeavor to take newborns for weighing regularly from birth till he/she is five (5) years old.
A staff at GHS Health Promotion Department, Mrs. Uzoma Tetteh adding her voice to call advised mothers to always sleep with their children under insecticide treated net every night and throughout the night to prevent malaria.
She equally called on parents to register their babies at birth or within one year to give them legal recognition and social protection as well as reminded them to always endeavor to take their sick children to the health facility for early treatment.
Expounding her views in an interview, Advocacy Advisor at PATH Ghana, Ms. Patience Dapaah, called for domestication of views on part of media to see newborn and child health problems as a national issue devoid of party political leanings.
In her estimation, the question: “how can the newborn care message reach every Ghanaian?”, could best be answered and addressed only if effective cooperation and collaboration between the media, healthcare personnel and all relevant partners is achieved.
Highlighting on the importance of breastfeeding to newborns in an interview, Communication for Development(C4D) Officer at UNICEF, Mrs. Charity Efey Nikoi advised parents to always breastfeed their babies within 30 minutes after delivery and ensure that they are always given breastmilk from birth till 6 months’ period.
“At 6 months, parent should start giving a variety of other foods and continue breastfeeding until the child is at least two (2) years old”.
She cautioned mothers to always ensure that they visit the health facility two (2) times in the first week after birth for the babies to be checked and treated for infection if necessary to avert death.
Finally, Mrs. Charity Efey Nikoi reminded parents to always ensure that their babies are given two (2) vaccines against TB and polio and complete their immunization before they turn 2 years old.
By Joseph Kobla Wemakor|Ghananewsone.com