The Central Regional Health Directorate on Wednesday, awarded 39 drivers from 13 districts in the Region for conveying women in labour free-of-charge to hospitals and health centres to facilitate safe delivery of their babies.

The recipients, three from each district were given certificates of honour.

In addition, the driver who emerged winner had a refrigerator, the first runner-up received a 36-inches television set and a ‘ghetto’ blaster for the second runner-up.

This is the second award ceremony for the drivers since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) in 2005 with support from the European Union and UNFPA.

About 585 women have so far benefited from the MOU which mandates drivers to convey women in labour from their communities to health centres free of charge and later be reimbursed by the Metropolitan, Municipal, District Assembly or health directorate.

Nana Ato Arthur, Central Regional Minister presenting the awards, urged health personnel to intensify education on family planning to women in particular.

He noted that the “free maternal care and delivery as well as free transport, could let some women go overboard.”

Nana Arthur expressed concern about the increasing rate of maternal and infant mortality in the Region and commended the drivers for helping to reduce the rate of such deaths.

Giving statistics, he said the regional figure of 167 maternal deaths per every 1,000 live births in 2006 was well below that of the expected national rate of 187.

Nana Arthur was optimistic all stakeholders including midwives would play their roles well to further reduce such deaths to the barest minimum.

Dr Aaron Ofei, Out-going Central Regional Director of Health Services, said since inception of the MOU, more drivers from other transport unions had joined in voluntarily, because they regard the lives of their “aunties, mothers and wives” being at stake.

He expressed appreciation to the drivers for their commitment to the programme.

Mr Bawa Amadu, Assistant Country Representative of UNFPA described the intervention by the Central Regional Health Directorate and the transport unions as a “remarkable achievement” that needed to be recognized.

He pledged the commitment of UNFPA to continue to offer support to the health sector and its related partners to help minimize maternal and infant mortality rates in the Region and Ghana.

Mr Yakubu Musah, a Cape Coast-based driver and a recipient, on behalf of his colleagues expressed appreciation for the awards and gave the assurance of their continuous services to ensure safety of mothers and their babies.

Source: GNA