“Before the intervention, many of us delivered at homes leading to birth complications. But now it is not so. Many of us through the drama , durbars , focus group discussions have not only been sensitized enough about the importance of going for antenatal services , but also delivering at health facilities and going for post-natal healthcare services”, Mrs Matilda Akabore, a 38 year –old woman from the Gambibgo Community in the Bolgatanga Municipal tells this Writer about what she benefited from the trained Model Mothers and Volunteers.
With funding support from UNICEF-Ghana , the NGO , the Integrated Youth Needs and Welfare in 2016 was tasked with the responsibility to use the Communication for the Development ( C4D) model to facilitate and implement the project dubbed”, Championing the Positive Behaviour Change For Improved Health, Education and Child Protection” in 80 communities in the Bolgatanga and Talensi Districts of the Upper East Region.
INTYON with support from the District Assembly officials selected 40 communities from each of the District making it 80 and supported them to implement the project.
The above success story is not only limited to the Gambibgo Community in the Bolgatanga Municipal alone, but also the entire project areas as the other beneficiary communities also gave the same positive account of the project during a field visit embarked upon this writer to the communities.
“As we have been educated by the trained Model Mothers and Volunteers through the drama, durbars and the focus group discussions among others facilitated by INTYON , we now know that it is very important for us to at least make five visits to the health centres and make sure we take our tetanus injections to avoid infecting our babies. Now I have also been encouraging my colleagues to do same”, Mrs Bernice Baba, a 38 year-old woman also from the Gbeo-Tambee community in the Talensi District remarked.
It is very obvious that when it comes to addressing maternal and infant mortalities in Ghana , the Ghana Health Service(GHS) which is mandated to tackle the problem cannot single handedly address the situation alone.
INTYON , the local implementing partner constituted and trained 160 Model Mothers and the volunteers on Behaviour and Social Change Communication on some health related concerns in the two Districts and tasked them with the responsibility of ensuring that pregnant women access efficient delivery services at health facilities.
Additionally , unlike before where mother and father in- laws in some communities disallowed women who deliver in their homes to exclusively breastfeed their babies, the trend had now changed into positive ones making many of the communities to promote exclusive breast feeding for the first six months all as a result of the efforts of the trained Model Mothers and Volunteers . They are also intensifying education on Complementary Feeding .
“Comparatively I have realized that there are some significant growth and improvement of the health status of my two children who I exclusively breastfed to those two who I did not. My two children who were not exclusively breastfed constantly fell sick and I have to spend more time and money taking them to health facilities for treatment. But the two I breastfed exclusively did not experienced this problem”, Mrs Akintoya Charity, a woman from the Sakarabisi, a suburb of the Bolgatanga Municipal stressed.
Besides the above success stories , the community members also revealed that through the health education received from the drama , durbars and the focus group discussion among others received from the trained Model Mothers and Volunteers facilitated by INTYON , majority of them particularly pregnant women and children under five who used not to sleep under Long Lasting Insecticide Nets are now sleeping under the nets thereby reducing the spread of malaria and curbing maternal and infant mortality in the communities.
The community members who attributed the success stories to the intensified public education embarked upon the Model Mothers and the Volunteers of the project, also mentioned the high patronage of birth registration and early enrolment of school children and their retention in schools as some of the gains chalked by the project.
The Way forward
Whilst most of the community members praised UNICEF and the implementing partner for the good results of the intervention achieved within the year of the implementation , they pleaded with UNICEF and other development partners to extend the duration period of the project to two or three years and to also scale it up to reach more communities in the region to help make significant impact.
The stated that the extension of the project would not only help improve upon the health of maternal and infant health but would also help accelerate the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goalss(SDGs) particularly on health.
“We’re very grateful to UNICEF and INTYON for implementing this very good intervention in our communities. Without them most women would have been delivering at homes which often lead to birth complications. There is however the need to extend the project duration as well as expand it to reach other communities in the region to make significant impact. I will therefore want to plead with UNICEF and other development partners to listen to our plea considering the fact that the region is among the leading regions in the country when it comes to issues affecting maternal and infant health. As development partners your support will help the country fast-track the achievement of the SDGs on maternal and infants health”, the Queen Mother of Sapaat community in the Talensi District, Pognab Paulina Wagbil pleaded.
In conclusion whilst it is very important to acknowledge UNICEF effort of complementing the Ghana Health Service to address the issues of maternal and infant deaths using the Model Mothers and Volunteers model mothers and C4D approach, there is the urgent need for stakeholders to go to the aid of the communities by supporting the NGO to deepen its work in the communities to make greater impact .
The Ministry of Local Government and the Rural Development, Corporate bodies and development partners should endeavour to support these communities so as to help fast-track the attainment of the SDGs. One of the major areas that is affecting effective health delivery and could be worked on is the lack of water in some of the health facilities as raised by many of the community members.
A Journalist interacting with some of the community members at the Gambibgo community about the project impact
Feature Article by Samuel Adadi Akapule