Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fighting Maternal and Infant Mortalities in Northern Region ……The Success Story of Savana Signatures

Ignorance, they say, is a disease, but for pregnant women it is even a killer especially for those who are pregnant for the first time and expecting to deliver. Lack of basic knowledge of maternal health is much grimmer for women in Northern Ghana, an area where about 70 percent of the female population cannot even read, write or speak English.  

Take for instance, the story of Jemila, a 22-year old classroom teacher in the Kumbungu District who is currently bearing her maiden pregnancy. She told Savannahnews in an interview whiles attending her routine monthly antenatal care at the Kings Village Medical Centre that, she has no idea of what is expected of a pregnant woman from the early stages of the pregnancy to the day of delivery. 

Despite being a literate, she thinks there is the need for constant education by nurses and midwives for her and especially for women who are not privileged to go to school, to properly understand what they will experience at every stage of their maturing pregnancies. 

But for the intervention of Savana Signatures (SavSign), a non-governmental organisation through its “Technology for Maternal Health Project” which implementation began early last year, Jemila and other women perhaps would have found themselves in a more hapless situation.

Elizabeth Jakalia, Project Officer, Technology for Maternal Health, tells The Advocate that, the project which is aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality rates through the provision of relevant information and advice to pregnant women is currently being implemented in six hospitals in four districts. 

The hospitals, she mentioned, include: The Kings Village Medical Centre in the Kumbungu District, Savelugu Hospital in the Savelugu-Nanton Municipality, Yendi Hospital in the Yendi Municipality as well as the Central, West and Tamale Teaching Hospitals in the Tamale Metropolis in the Northern Region.

An estimated number between fifty and one hundred and twenty women die each year in the Northern Region alone during delivery in hospitals. But, there are even suspicions of a far greater unreported figure than these estimates particularly among women who refuse to seek antenatal care or deliver in hospitals when they are pregnant. 

Each of the beneficiary hospitals, according to Elizabeth, has been provided with six computers, a printer and projector installed with educative resources on maternal health to enable health officials to educate expectant mothers on quality maternal healthcare which will hopefully lead to safe delivery.

Elizabeth Jakalia, Project Officer, SavSign
“The project design includes setting up maternal health corners, organizing knowledge sharing sessions, and delivery of SMS/audio messages. Expectant mothers in the remotest of locations have ready access to easy-to-understand maternal healthcare information on their mobile phones much more frequently than the monthly antenatal visits in hospitals” she added.

The over 1,700 pregnant women who have so far been registered under the project, she explained, receive short voice/data messages on nutrition, personal hygiene, signs and symptoms of pregnancy and what preparations they ought to make towards safe delivery at the peak of their pregnancies. “Messages are delivered in English, Dagbani and Likpakpa a number of times in a week”, Elizabeth emphasised.

The STAR-Ghana two-year funded project also has special features which include a flashing system, whereby expectant mothers can flash a number in order to be registered on the system. Midwives can also use phones to register expectant mothers onto the system. Each week, each mother automatically receives a few calls in her own language with information on the stage of her pregnancy, and suggestions to keep her and her baby healthy. 

The skills, knowledge and approaches of at least 72 midwives, community nurses and ICT technicians of the six health facilities have been enhanced to use ICT tools to communicate maternal health information.

Jemila lauded the initiative by SavSign: “I am pregnant for the first time and I’m ignorant about a lot of things. My husband too, doesn’t know what a pregnant woman is supposed to do. So receiving text/voice messages from SavSign has helped me a lot; what to eat or drink, and which medicines to take to stop certain conditions I may be experiencing”.

Pregnant woman receiving a call from SavSign
“I’ll like to recommend that they continue to send us the messages even after delivery so that we will know what to do to take proper care of our babies” she added.

At the Tamale West Hospital where a monitoring team of SavSign paid a visit to assess progress of the project so far, Fatahia who is five months pregnant lamented that a lot of husbands do not care about what their pregnant wives go through. 

While lauding the project for the positive impacts so far made, she appealed to SavSign to endeavour to send similar messages to their husbands so that they could be proactive when their support is urgently needed.

Fatahia said: “There are certain things according to health officials I need in my diet as a pregnant woman in order to keep myself and the unborn child healthy. But whenever I inform my husband about it he doesn’t show any concern….he thinks I’m looking for an opportunity to spend his money”, she told this reporter adding that “Some husbands will wait till the day you’re in labour before they begin to buy you what you need for yourself and the baby. The nurses will be shouting on you when you don’t have what every pregnant woman is supposed to have and that is embarrassing”.

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