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24.08.2004 Health

Poverty and ignorance, leading factors of poor reproductive health -

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Accra, Aug. 24, GNA - Dr (Mrs) Henrietta Odoi-Agyarko, Deputy Director of Public Health, on Tuesday attributed the poor reproductive health status of Ghanaians to poverty and lack of information on basic health issues.

To reverse the situation, she said, the Government was adopting several approaches in line with the national goal of achieving health for all by the year 2015.

Dr (Mrs) Odoi-Agyarko was addressing the participants at a day's dissemination workshop on "Impact Assessment Project on the Family Reproductive Health Programme" (FRHP) published by Save the Children, Ghana; international nongovernmental organisation (NGO).

The research showed an increase in the level of unwanted pregnancies leading to high abortion rates. It also showed that most Ghanaians remained ignorant about the specifics of the abortion law, while a great deal of social stigma continued to be attached to abortion.

Dr (Mrs) Odoi-Agyarko said the Ghana Health Service (GHS) was publicising a document on the Second Education of the National Reproductive Health Policy and Standards, which was expected to guide various categories of reproductive health providers.

She noted that the current population growth rate with its accompanying high fertility rate posed great challenges to the sustenance of reproductive health programmes and efforts to improve upon the living standards of the people.

Dr Mrs Odoi-Agyarko said the pillars of reproductive health, as the attainment of an equal status for women, included universal access to family planning, promotion of safe motherhood, including proper antenatal care, prevention of unsafe abortion, management of reproductive tract infections and the promotion of proper nutrition for both mother and child.

"Due to the challenges there have been great disparities in combating HIV/AIDS, high morbidity and mortality rates, abortion and other cultural practices, which adversely affect the reproductive health and rights of women in the country."

She stated that though there had been numerous networking between the Government and stakeholders to ensure quality health care delivery, limited information on reproductive health issues continued to be a major setback to the success of various programmes.

Unfortunately, statistics have shown high maternal mortality due to poverty and unsafe abortions among others, she said.

Hospital-based data estimate 22 to 30 per cent of abortion cases as a contributing factor to the high maternal mortality rate.

"The MOH and GHS are, therefore, calling for a study on maternal mortality and we hope to look in the area of abortion among other things."

She called for a refocusing on the importance of family planning programmes since they were the best methods and strategies to reduce unplanned pregnancies as well as provide proper information that would aid in the making of informed choice on one's reproductive health.

"In recent times donor focus has shifted away from family planning and other infectious diseases to interventions addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS, safe motherhood and child survival," she said.

Dr (Mrs) Odoi-Agyarko said data from the 2003 Demographic and Health Survey showed increases in contraceptive use among married women from 76 per cent in 1988 to 98 per cent in 2003.

She called for a more serious action in terms of education as well as the provision of care and the improvement of the understanding of some cultural practices to synchronise with the beliefs of the people for maximum impact.

Ms Vicky Okine, FRHP Coordinator, who read the findings, attested to the high rate of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, leading to a decline in the demand for children.

She said the high level of ignorance on reproductive health issues, among the sample group, called for a sit-up and the need to strengthen efforts to expand education to the grassroots level.

The study, therefore, made various recommendations including intensifying training for local NGOs to be able to access self-funding, ensure stronger micro-level advocacy to influence national level processes such as resource allocation and consolidation of targeted health interventions at all levels of the programme. Mr Jan Van der Horst, Representative of the Government of the Netherlands, said the need to uphold reproductive health was paramount to eradicating poverty.

He said his Government, which had been providing support for reproductive health care in Ghana, was prepared to spend more to ensure quality health care.

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