The latest statistics released by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has indicated that the Northern Region continuous to record higher maternal mortality rates, a development that perhaps is confirming that the entire nation is still far away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals four and five (MDGs 4 and 5) by 2015.
Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, the MDGs provide concrete, numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty in its many dimensions such as poverty and hunger, universal basic education, gender equity, child health, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnership. The MDGs 4 and 5 actually aims at reducing by two-thirds the ratio of under-five mortality rate and reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015.
Official statistics released to the media by the Northern Regional Health Directorate of the GHS at a press briefing, showed that between January and July 30, 2012, the Northern Region recorded 70 maternal deaths, out of which 65 were institutional and 5 being community deaths. Also, out of the 5 community deaths, 2 came from the East Mamprusi, 2 from Chereponi and 1 from Nanumba South Districts.
Out of a total of 53 institutional maternal deaths, 7 occurred in January, 12 in February and 10 in March; 9 deaths occurred in April, 10 deaths recorded in May, 9 recorded in June and 8 recorded as at 28th July 2012.
Besides, out of a total of 65 institutional maternal deaths, 32 (49.2%) deaths occurred within the Tamale Metropolis, 6 (9.2%) from Yendi, 5 (7.7%) from West Mamprusi, 4 (6.2%) from Bole and Gushegu Districts, 3 (4.6%) from East Mamprusi, 2 (3.8%) each from Zabzugu-Tatale, East Gonja, Tolon Kumbungu and Savelugu-Nanton Districts. Chereponi, Karaga and Saboba Districts recorded 1(1.9%) death each.
Also, out of a total of 65 institutional maternal deaths, 31 (47.7%) came from the Tamale Teaching Hospital, 6 (9.2%) from Yendi Government Hospital, 5 (7.7%) from Walewale Government Hospital, 4 (6.2%) from Bole Government Hospital, 3 (4.6%) each from Gushegu Government Hospital and Baptist Medical Centre, 2 (3.1%) each from Zabzugu Government Hospital, Salaga Government Hospital, Kings Medical Centre and Savelugu-Nanton Government Hospital. Nyohini, Chereponi Polyclinic, Karaga Polyclinic, Katani CHPS and Saboba Medical Centre recorded 1 (1.5%) each.
Moreover, out of a total of 65 maternal deaths, 56 (86.2%) were Anti-Natal Care attendants, 7 (10.8%) never attended ANC and 2 (3.1%) ANC history was unknown. Out of a total of 65 maternal deaths recorded, the majority of 56 (86.2%) occurred between the ages of 20-34 years, followed by 6 (9.2%) for the age groups 35+ years, 3 (4.6%) for 15-19 years. However, the age groups for 10-14 years did not record any death.
Furthermore, out of a total of 65 deaths, 36 (55.4%) occurred after delivery and 29 (44.6%) died with the pregnancies. 12 (18.5%) out of the 65 maternal deaths were caused by haemorrhage, 10 (15.4%) were caused by eclampsia and anaemia, 5 (7.7%) were caused by sepsis and 3 (4.6%) were caused by unsafe abortion, 2 (3.1%) due to pulmonary embolism, ruptured uterus, sickle cell crisis and pneumonia.
Statistics available also showed that the practice of family planning in the region was 26% in 2008, 28.8% in 2009 and 24.3% in 2010. According to the Public Health Unit of the GHS, a total of 5,764 men in the region were practicing family planning in 2008, whiles in 2009, the figure rose to 10,717 men. In 2010, there was a decline in the number, from over 10,000 to a little over 8,500, which is an indication that less number of men were practicing family planning in that year.
Consequently, there is growing uncontrolled child-bearing and bad sexual habits among the people of the region most especially adults or married couples. According to the 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), only 6% of married women in the region between 15 and 49 years used contraceptives. This, coupled with strong sexual desire among adolescents was further contributing to more teenage pregnancies which could have been avoided through the use of condoms and other forms of contraceptives.
Besides, the number of children between the ages of 1 and 15 constituted about 47% of the total population of the whole region, and about 23% of young girls between ages 12 and 19 were already mothers or were pregnant. Currently, the average number of children per every single woman in the region is 6.8% representing about 7 children per woman as against the maximum national figure of 4 children per woman, according to the GDHS.
Also, in 2011, 130 women died during child birth in the region, 88 in 2010, 96 in 2009, 91 in 2008 and 115 in 2007, according to the GHS. So, as the deadline (2015) for the achievement of the MDGs 4 and 5 targets approaches, the situation becomes more worrying to all stakeholders in the health sector.
Health authorities in the Northern Region have attributed the acute cases of maternal and infant mortality rates to the drastic reduction in the number of midwives and other critical health personnel coupled with bad roads network among others.
|Dr. Akwasi Twumasi|
The Northern Regional Health Director, Dr. Akwasi Twumasi told journalists that series of measures had been put in place to avert maternal and infant mortality rates in the region, citing for instance the inauguration of five polyclinics in five districts last year and posting of four doctors to man them.
Donors, he said, had also provided logistics to the GHS to shore up some of the obsolete and overburdened ones still being used in some of the facilities in the area. Besides, the first batch of midwives from the Tamale Nursing and Midwifery Training College would be graduating this year whereas a new midwifery training school would also be starting in the Gusheigu and Kpembe in the East Gonja Districts respectively.
Dr. Twumasi disclosed that by the end of 2012, Northern Region would have had 60 new midwives posted to all the district hospitals as well as other health institutions providing critical health care to the people.
The Northern Regional Health Director commended United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organisation and United Nations Children Fund for their unflinching support in the area of health delivery in the region.