|Abdul Rashid Imoro|
That maternal and child mortalities represent a huge health burden in the Northern Region of Ghana is not completely in doubt. Its fight has been identified by health experts as key in achieving goal four and five of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations in the year 2000 to be achieved by ending of 2015.
Goal four targets a reduction by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate whereas goal five targets a reduction by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
According to the Northern Regional Health Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), an estimated 80 to 130 women die each year in the region during childbirth. Aside this, quite a greater number of women who prefer to give birth in their homes, die unreported. For instance, in 2013, the region recorded 106 maternal deaths, 2012, 119, 2011, 131, 2010, 88, 2009, 96, 2008, 91 and 2007, 115.
The reasons accountable for these unwanted deaths besides the refusal of many women to seek antenatal care or give birth at home include postpartum haemorrhage, severe anaemia, sepsis, eclampsia, abortion and delay in going to the hospital when in labour.
Other challenges are bad road networks linking district and regional hospitals, inadequate health facilities and personnel, lack of critical medical equipment and lack of blood banks in most district hospitals.
The challenges confronting maternal and child health informed Savana Signatures (SavSign), a non-governmental organisation based in Tamale to implement a two-year (2012-2014) STAR-Ghana funded project dubbed: “Technology for Maternal Health”. The project was implemented in the Savelugu-Nanton Municipality, Yendi Municipality, Tamale Metropolis and Kumbungu District in the Northern Region.
Programmes Coordinator, Sex and Reproductive Health and Rights at SavSign Abdul Rashid Imoro, told Savannahnews the project aimed at reducing maternal and infant deaths through the provision of relevant information and supreme advice to all registered pregnant women in the project areas in partnership with health facilities.
The project, Mr. Imoro noted, benefited 6286 expectant mothers who visited six hospitals located in all the four districts, adding that “They included the Savelugu Government Hospital, Yendi Government Hospital, Kings Village Medical Centre in Kumbungu and the Tamale West, Tamale Central and Tamale Teaching Hospitals in the Tamale Metropolis”, he stated.
“Each of the beneficiary hospitals was provided with six computers, a printer, headphones, a projector, a projector screen, a mobile phone and educative materials on maternal health, which enabled health officials, to educate pregnant women on quality maternal healthcare for safe delivery.
“The project design also included setting up maternal health corners, organizing knowledge sharing sessions for pregnant women who visited the hospital for antenatal care and delivering SMS/audio messages to them via their mobile phones. Pregnant women in the remotest of locations had access to easy-to-understand maternal health information on their mobile phones much more frequently than the monthly antenatal visits to the hospitals” he intimated.
Furthermore, Mr. Imoro said all pregnant women who registered at each of the six hospitals, received short voice/data messages on nutrition, personal hygiene, signs and symptoms of pregnancy and what preparations they ought to make towards safe childbirth. “Messages are delivered in languages such as English, Dagbani and Likpakpa at least three times a week”, he noted.
The skills, knowledge and approaches of at least 72 midwives, community nurses and ICT technicians from each of the six health facilities were enhanced to use ICT tools to communicate maternal health information much more effectively and efficiently.
Meanwhile, as nations of the world get set to finish a race they began on the MDGs in 2000, Ghana, an obvious participant, will have very little to celebrate for especially in the area of maternal and child health which still remains a headache to government.
The GHS projects that, an estimated 4000 women die annually through childbirth or unsafe abortion practices. This projection confirms an annual report by Oxfam which says, Ghana every week records 75 maternal deaths from pregnancy-related complications and childbirth.
By the year 2015, Ghana is expected to reduce maternal deaths by 70 percent. But with the 2015 MDGs deadline looming, the country is a long way from its goal of 54 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 53 child deaths per 1,000 live births.
The country in 2012 was ranked 41st on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) world maternal mortality rate index and the situation is more worrying to all stakeholders in the health sector including SavSign.
Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000, 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.