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13.07.2004 Regional News

Delay in accessing service contributes to maternal mortality - Afriyie

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Apam, July 13, GNA - Delay in accessing safe motherhood services has been identified as one of the key factors contributing to the high incidence of maternal mortality in the country, Dr Kweku Afriyie, Minister of health said on Tuesday.

In a speech read for him at the launch of this year's World Population Day at Apam, the Health Minister said research had identified delays in recognising danger signs during pregnancy, receiving care, reaching health facilities late due to the lack of transport, long distances, poor roads and attitude of health personnel leading to long waiting hours.

The Day, which was celebrated under the theme: "Safe Motherhood: Everyone's Responsibility" was chosen because of the reported slow space of reduction in maternal deaths.

Dr Afriyie expressed the sadness that, healthy women lost their lives through pregnancy and childbirth, which could have been prevented, adding "the loss of lives of such women is not only a blow to the immediate families and friends but also a great loss to the community and the country".

It is estimated that 529,000 maternal deaths that occur globally every year, 48 per cent occur in Africa, especially among poor women. He said even though Ghana quoted a maternal mortality ratio of 214 per 100,000 live births, some regions had rates as high as 800 per 100,000 live births.

In Ghana, 837 women died in pregnancy and childbirth in the year 2002.

Dr Afriyie noted that government had instituted an exemption policy to provide free antenatal clinic and delivery services in all districts in public health facilities and four selected regions including the Central Region to promote safe motherhood in the country.

He urged district assemblies to budget for and support safe motherhood programmes and activities in their areas and communities, especially men should also take keen interest in the health needs of their women and provided them with all the support "as they bear the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth", he added.

"Efforts towards educating the girl-child should be intensified, since the education of women is very crucial to reducing maternal mortality rates", Dr Afriyie appealed.

Dr Richard Turkson, Executive Director of the National Population Council, attributed women's status in society, "general powerlessness, unequal access to resources in family and society" as some of the root causes of poor maternal health.

"This is at the root of unsafe motherhood and poor reproductive health even before pregnancy. It becomes worse, once pregnancy and child-bearing begins."

He said if Ghana was to make further advances as a socially just and progressive nation, "then we have no alternative but to make substantial efforts to make motherhood as safe as possible".

Dr Turkson said there was the need to address the appalling ignorance of men concerning the health problems of women throughout pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, by providing them with all the information and education to support women.

"We should also pay greater attention to our adolescents who become pregnant when they are still not physically, emotionally and socially ready, so that they can delay marriage and first birth and avoid unsafe abortion", he added. July 13, 04

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