UNICEF holds stakeholders' meeting on accelerating newborn health care in Ghana
7/12/2012 12:30:15 AM -
Accra , July 11, GNA -Neonatal deaths, which constitute deaths that occur within the first four weeks of birth, constitute almost half of all deaths in children under the age of five in Ghana.
According to UNICEF, Ghana would not be able to meet the targets for the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4) unless there are significant reductions in the first four weeks of life.
There is however evidence and experience that almost 80 percent of these deaths are preventable through simple and relatively inexpensive measures and UNICEF believes that changing this would need the active collaboration of all stakeholders in the health sector and beyond including changes in behavior among families and communities.
Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, National Child Health Coordinator, Ghana Health Service (GHS) in an address at a stakeholders meeting on accelerating newborn health care in Ghana in Accra on Wednesday said Ghana has achieved some progress in under five mortality reduction in the past five years, but coverage and quality of interventions needed to be improved in order to attain the MDG 4 on reducing under five mortality rates by 2015.
The two-day meeting organized by UNICEF in collaboration with the GHS would discuss the parckage of neonatal health interventions outlined in Ghana's Child Health policy and strategy and agree on the way forward in scaling up these in order to accelerate Ghana's progress towards the MDG 4 on reducing maternal mortality by 2015.
The meeting would also examine the need and feasibility of other interventions that are currently in the Child Health Policy and develop consensus on the strategies for delivering the package of these interventions.
Dr Sagoe-Moses presented a clear picture of what pertains in Ghana including the various intervention that are stated in Ghana's Child Health Care Policy and also outlined the bottle necks that poses major challenges to achieving significant reductions in neonatal mortality.
She said it was factual that 70 percent of neonatal deaths could be prevented by known, effective interventions delivered along the continuum of care, however major bottle necks such as persistent practices of harmful socio-cultural beliefs and practices, poor road networks, water and sanitation and other socio-economic factors continue to hinder the progress of improving access, quality and demand for quality neonatal health care in the country.
She said currently neonatal deaths constitute a significant portion under five mortality in the country, while indicators for neonatal mortality rate have not improved in the past 10 years.
However over 50 percent of these neonatal deaths are believed to take place at home, often unseen and uncounted, citing the three major causes of neonatal deaths as infections, asphyxia and preterm birth.
'In addition, lack of improvement in maternal health in Ghana continues to impair newborn survival,' she said.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said addressing specific bottlenecks in areas of access, quality and demand would require among other things improvement in information for planning, improved human resources, equipment and improving community practices through improvement in training manual and child records.
Dr Hari Krishna Banskota, UNICEF Representative, gave the global perspective of newborn care standards, practice and lessons learned, saying out of 7.6 million under-five mortality 3.1 million representing 40 percent occur in the newborn period globally, however there are Regional disparities in newborn survival and trends, but no significant changes have been recorded within the last decade.
He said strategic shift are therefore required for accelerating reduction of neonatal mortality, which could be possible through strengthened political commitment and leadership across sectors, good governance and accountability, empowerment of women to make decisions on reproductive health, adoption of functional health systems to context within the continuum of care and evidence-based programme prioritisation with equity.
Dr Banskota stressed that strong national leadership and partnership of key actors as well as the implementation of a National Newborn Health Strategy and action plan were critical for accelerating the newborn care as a priority.
He further indicated the need for improved care at the facility level with enhanced human resources, supplies and referral systems, as well as ensuring the integration of newborn care interventions into frontline health worker delivery platforms within the framework of continuum of Maternal and Neonatal Child Health Care.