Three individuals, identified only as Jimmy, Priscilla and Elizabeth, recounted how they lost their babies under conditions they described as ‘avoidable’, in different health-care facilities in Accra.

With tears in her eyes, Priscilla narrated before a sizeable crowd at a national forum on maternal health, how she narrowly escaped death as a result of bleeding after delivery. At the end of it all, she lost her baby.

Jimmy, who sounded emotional and occasionally, had to stop talking to prevent himself from breaking down in tears, recounted how his wife, a first-time mother, nearly lost her life through childbirth and ended up losing the baby at a big government hospital in Accra.

For her part, Elizabeth told the painful story she had narrated many times, about the baby she lost at a private health facility she considered as a first-class one. To her, it was the case of lack of adequate professional and proper care.

In the three narrations and many others which were presented at the forum, one thing that ran through was that at the time the women needed professional assistance, it was not received or when it was, it came too late, or was not available.

The forum being referred to here had the theme, “Stand Up and Take Action Against Maternal Deaths in Ghana”, and was organised by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR) in Accra, in collaboration with the Health Platform. That was part of activities marking this year’s “Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty” commemorated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The purpose of the national forum, according to the organisers, was to inspire action among all stakeholders in order to improve maternal health in the country.

The event is very important, now that Ghana has officially indicated that it was not possible for the country to reduce its current child mortality of 451 per every 100,000 live birth births as contained in the 2008 Ghana MDGs report which was launched recently. The MDGs report was produced by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

At the launch of the Ghana MDGs report, it came out that while the country is said to be on track to achieving the MDGs I and II which relate to the reduction in poverty and hunger by 2015, it was not likely to achieve goals IV and V, which involved reduction in child and maternal mortality.

Part of the report stated “Maternal mortality rate at 451 deaths at 100,000 live births is high and Ghana is unlikely to attain the target of reducing by three quarters, the maternal mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015, even though maternal health care has improved over the past 20 years”.

The national forum also came off at the time that world leaders were meeting in New York to assess progress made towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. In addition, the organisers of the national forum launched the second edition of the Civil Society Organisation’s (CSOs) Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) monitoring report produced by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights.

The content of the report, which was described by participants as excellent, is divided into eight main parts, namely, child health, care-seeking behaviour, sanitation, immunisation and maternal prophylaxis, use of treated bed nets, maternal health, HIV AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria. The report also addresses the identified goals, targets and indicators of the official MDG list, as well as priorities indicated in the Ghana Health Service’s current Programme of Work (PoW).

The report, which was reviewed by the Director of the Local Government Institute, Dr Esther Ofei Aboagye, was officially launched by Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin of ABANTU for Development. It focused on the performance and progress Ghana had made in achieving the health goals of the MDGs from the perspective of beneficiaries in those selected districts in the country.

Giving a review of the document, Dr Ofei-Aboagye named the selected districts as Agona East, Bongo, Builsa, Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA) and Kwahu North.

She said the current report also expanded on the previous effort which involved three districts Bongo, KEEA and Kwahu-North.

Dr Ofei-Aboagye said the low knowledge of the danger signs in pregnancy as shown in the report was a problem for which efforts to find a solution must be stepped up.

However, she said the report indicated that the fact that more women were participating in antenatal care was rewarding, while the fact that women recognised the importance of formal facilities in the event of obstetric emergencies was also encouraging.

She also indicated that nonmedical factors such as transport challenges to facility-based health care institutions in rural areas, attitude of care givers, differential interpretation of the policy on free maternal care and what the National Health Insurance Scheme paid for and what it did were still barriers to maternal health and, therefore, should not be ignored in discussions aimed at improving maternal health.

Dr Mensah-Kutin, who chaired the programme, said it was unacceptable for a woman to be pregnant for nine months only to lose the baby or her life and called for concerted efforts to address the situation, adding that “zero tolerance for maternal deaths should be our target”.

Mrs Elizabeth Vaah, who set up the Vaah Foundation for Maternal Health after she lost her new-born baby in a hospital in Accra early this year, called on policy makers to stop paying lip-services to maternal mortality and embark on urgent measures to address the issues.

For her part, the Executive Director of ARHR, Ms Vicky Okine, said the apparent sluggish progress in achieving the health-related goals required a new strategy and renewed commitment from both the government and civil society.

In her welcoming address headed: “Five years to move to 2015 – are we on track to achieve health related MDGs?”, Ms Okine said the apparent sluggish progress in achieving the health-related goals required a new strategy and renewed commitment from both the government and civil society.

She, however, acknowledged some initiatives undertaken by the government to reduce the high maternal mortality rate and mentioned the introduction of free maternal care in 2008 and pointed out that it helped nearly half a million more women to receive healthcare which they would not have otherwise received.

“These gains, notwithstanding, hundreds of people in Ghana and, indeed, developing countries do not get any healthcare at all, because there are no accessible health centres where they live or they are too costly to reach”, she stated.

Source: Daily Graphic

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