Maternal, newborn care improved in Upper West Region

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Health-related interventions undertaken by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at some hospitals in the Upper West Region have helped to improve maternal and newborn care at the
While maternal deaths have not been recorded at some of the hospitals for some time now, the rate of occurrence at some of the facilities has reduced.

This was disclosed when officials from UNICEF visited some of the hospitals in the region to ascertain impact of health-related projects undertaken by UNICEF with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Miss Phoebe Bala, the Nadowli-Kaleo District Director of Health, who made a presentation on the health situation of the area at a meeting with officials of UNICEF at Nadowli, said the district used to record high cases of neonatal deaths because there was no newborn care unit at the district hospital to treat babies.

She said “So, UNICEF pushed us to get the Assembly to construct a newborn care unit at the Nadowli Government Hospital in 2018. UNICEF, in 2018, then provided us with all the essential things needed to establish a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and brought some equipment to help take care of the babies. UNICEF also supported through capacity training of the health staff on helping babies to breathe.”

She added that “UNICEF also supported in quality improvement training on hypothermia; how to ensure that newborns’ temperature remains normal, which is important to prevent neonatal deaths.”

She said the support from UNICEF had helped to reduce hypothermia from 65.5 per cent in 2019 to less than five per cent currently, adding that care for mothers and their babies had improved resulting in reduction in neonatal deaths from about 36 in 2018 to four in 2021.

She said the district had also started quality improvement training on pathography to ensure its efficient use in the area to save lives of mothers and their babies.

Madam Florence Owusuaa Peprah, the Physician Assistant, in-charge of the Urban Health Centre at Wa, said “In 2020 UNICEF supported us to undergo quality improvement training to follow the right protocols on oxytocin. The training has changed a lot of things.”

Madam Peprah said, “since the training, we do not record bleeding after delivery, which means that we have not recorded maternal deaths since 2020.”

Mr Latif Abdul-Rahaman, Health Information Officer at the Upper West Regional Hospital, said, “UNICEF supported us with Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) by donating three ultra-modern comfortable chairs for mothers to sit on to carry their babies, who weigh below 2.5kg or are pre-term babies to support them to gain weight and normalise their temperature.”

Mr Abdul-Rahaman added that “this year, UNICEF also organised KMC trainings, and point of care quality improvement trainings for health staff, which have made the hospital a centre of excellence in providing quality improvement training to other facilities.”

He said “initially, our KMC to low birth weight and pre-term babies was 39 per cent but this has increased to 91.7 per cent due to the support, which is a very good improvement.”

At the community level, the formation of village health committees, mother-to-mother, father-to-father, and breast-feeding support groups has also been helping to support pregnant women to regularly access antenatal and postnatal care to improve their health and the health of their babies.

At Tabiesi community in the Wa Municipality where such groups were vibrant, the Chief of the area has instituted a fine of GHc100.00 for men, whose wives delivered at home, a situation, which ensured that since 2020, no woman delivered at home.

Mrs Sawudatu Seidu, a nursing mother at Tabiesi, said the health advice she received from the midwife in the area coupled with assistance from the support groups encouraged her to undertake exclusive breastfeeding for her second child, who is a year old.

She said her second child did not have frequent diarrhea compared to her first child, who did not have exclusive breastfeeding.

Mr Abarry Mohammed, Deputy Director, Clinical Care at the Upper West Regional Health Directorate, said exclusive breastfeeding in the region was at 90%.

Dr Hafiz Bin Salih, the Upper West Regional Minister, thanked UNICEF for supporting the health sector to sustain the gains made in saving lives of newborns in the region.

Dr Tedbabe Degefie Hailegebriel, Senior Advisor, Maternal and Newborn Health, UNICEF, New York lauded the collaboration between village health committees and health facilities at the community level, saying it was an important link in ensuring quality health care delivery.

She also lauded the activities of the support groups at the community level and said it was remarkable because “First time pregnancy and not going for antenatal care early is one of the factors that contributes to mothers to face complications during birth.”

She commended the hospitals for their efforts to identify and treat the common causes of death among newborns such as birth asphyxia, pre-term or low birth weight and infections.

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