01.07.2004 Regional News

Reduce maternal deaths- MOH Official

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Accra, June 30, GNA - Dr. Henrietta Odoi-Agyarko, National Child Heath Co-ordinator, Ministry of Health, on Wednesday called for strong commitment to reducing maternal mortality which was currently very high. She said the strengthening of the weak health system to respond timely to critical needs of pregnant women and new births, community involvement as well as realistic and appropriate investment in the girl-child, were some of the interventions needed to combat the current high maternal mortality rate and new born deaths.

Dr. Odoi-Agyarko, making the call during an advocacy event on maternal health and safe motherhood, organised by the Ministry of Health said maternal mortality was the death of a woman related to pregnancy, delivery or within the six weeks following the birth of the baby.

Dr. Odoi-Agyarko said the current high maternal mortality rate were due to various factors that included the negative attitudes and belief of individuals in the society towards pre and post-natal care.

The attitude and beliefs of some husbands and family members prevent expectant mothers from seeking appropriate health care and to have good nutrition, which later resulted in anaemia, posing great danger to the lives of both mother and child during labour.

She said though the proportion of women, who attended antenatal clinics, at least once during their pregnancy, increased from 87 per cent in 1993 to 92 per cent in 2003.

Only 46 per cent of all deliveries currently occur in health facilities and 47 per cent by skilled health providers.

"The high proportion of births attended to by traditional birth attendants and others is due to unavailability of health services, costs and socio-cultural factors that often leads to complications and deaths," she said.

Dr. Odoi-Agyarko called for enhanced facility for referral health systems at all levels including improved communication systems, to help reduce the burden on central health facilities.

"The United Nations Development Index ranked Ghana 129 out of 179 countries for 2003, adding, the index was a composite measure of education, life expectancy at birth, adult literacy rate and the Gross Domestic Product per capita," she said.

She called for enhanced and sustained Adolescent Reproductive Health programmes to educate the youth, adding, "adolescent pregnancies account for 14.6 per cent of all pregnancies."

Mr. Samuel Owusu-Agyei, Chief Director, Ministry of Health stated that the high levels of maternal deaths in the country was unacceptable and posed a threat to national development.

He said the Ministry had therefore made Safe Motherhood a priority intervention in their programme of work by providing free antenatal care at district levels, free maternal delivery services to the Central, Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

He said the free services would soon be extended to the Eastern and Western Regions.

The Chief Director said the Ministry had obtained funds from the Ministry of Finance to implement an incentive package for health workers in deprived districts.

He gave the assurance that the Ministry's rehabilitation and upgrading programme would continue so as to improve access and quality health services.

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