Dr. Owen Laws Kaluwa the WHO country representative, as urged Ghana to accelerate its progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets on Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN).
He said although good progress had been made in addressing MCHN over the years, more remained to be done both globally and in the Africa Region including Ghana.
Currently, maternal mortality remained unacceptably high, with 830 women globally, dying daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth.
Dr Kaluwa gave the advice at the second annual MCHN, which opened in Accra on Wednesday on the theme: “Enhancing Integrated Reproductive Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition to Accelerate the Achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The Conference, which is being organised by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in collaboration with its development partners, attracted policymakers, programme managers and health practitioners to discuss emerging issues affecting maternal and child health, which included low access and utilization of family planning services; quality care; rise in non-communicable diseases as a cause of death, and early childhood development initiatives.
Dr Kaluwa said in 2017 alone, over six million children and young adolescents died, mostly from preventable causes, however, “because we were able to make progress over the past decades, it gives me confidence and hope that we can also make very good progress in the coming decades”.
The 2018 Atlas for African Health Statistics published by the WHO, World Bank, UNICEF and others, he said, showed that Ghana had a lot of work to do to reach the SDG target on MCHN.
He said the country in 2015 also had a maternal mortality ratio of 319 deaths per 100,000 live births, and that if the current rate of reduction was maintained, the country was bound to reach a ratio of 210 per 100,000 live births in 2030 against the SDG target of 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
He further explained that for under-five mortality, Ghana in 2015 was estimated to have a rate of 61 deaths per 1,000 live births, saying at the current pace, “we could only reach 36.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2030 against the target of 25 deaths per 1,000 live births”
Dr Kaluwa said it was clear that doing business as usual would not lead to the achievement of the SDGs for MCHN targets by 2030, and called for accelerated action and collective work, to advance the implementation of programmes and interventions.
He said in Ghana, the process for setting the right stage and environment to scale-up interventions were on-going and advanced, citing the National Health Sector Medium Term Development Plan, which has highlighted MCHN as a priority, and the adoption of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as overreaching health sector initiatives to enhance progress.
He pledged the WHO’s commitment to support the Government of Ghana and all stakeholders in efforts to improve the health of Ghanaians.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director-General, GHS, said Ghana had over the years sustained efforts at reducing the rate mortality among women and children through the implementation of different programmes driven by global and national evidence, amidst dwindling donor funding.
He said the Service recorded its lowest maternal mortality rate at the end of 2018, with a prevalence of 128.4 deaths per 100,000 live births as against 144.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017, and since then, stakeholders have been working hard to ensure “Zero Tolerance for Maternal Deaths,” through a host of initiatives and programmes.
He mentioned some of the interventions as the drafting of a new Reproductive Maternal Nutrition Child Adolescent Health Policy and Strategy (2020 to 2030) with technical and financial support for the WHO, which would be presented to stakeholders at the conference for inputs, to provide strategic direction to all their collaborative efforts.
He also mentioned the rollout of the new Combined Maternal and Child Health Record Book in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to improve the vital registration system in the country, and again, the implementation of the Girls Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation Programme to reduce anaemia among adolescent girls.
Others included, the creation of E-learning platforms for capacity building of health professionals, the introduction of a task-shifting for maternal health services, to complement the work of the regular staff, and an improvement in the supply chain through the Last Mile Distribution System, to deliver medical consumables such as blood products and vaccines to hard-to-reach areas using the Drone technology.
Dr Nsiah-Asare said the conference would not offer only the opportunity to deliberate on issues of collective interest, but would fuel and sustain the drive as a service to bring remarkable changes in maternal, child health and nutrition service delivery.