Source: World Health Organization
Over the past few decades, the maternal mortality rate in Ghana has seen a steady decline due to several factors and robust systems put in place to ensure safe pregnancy and delivery. Data available to the Ghana Health Service shows a total number of 875 maternal deaths in 2018 and 838 in 2019. This figure further decreased to 776 in 2020 despite the increase in total deliveries while institutional maternal mortality ratio reduced from 117 in 2019 to 106 in 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and all its associated impact.
This was disclosed by the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Aboagye during the opening of the third national Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Conference 2021, in Accra, under the theme: ‘Sustaining Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) and Nutrition Services Delivery and Resilient Systems in Emergencies and Beyond.
Health Professionals, Policy Makers, and Development Partners convened to discuss the achievements and lessons learned from ensuring Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health services during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to work to sustain the gains made. The conference as well highlighted the existing health system and ways to enhance it to achieve the set targets for Universal Health Coverage.
Dr Aboagye indicated that lessons from COVID-19 had brought to the fore, the importance of strengthening partnerships and community engagement in a holistic approach not only in the containment of effort but also in actions to maintain the delivery of critical maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition services.
He recommended that steps should be taken to document lessons learnt, opportunities and strengths, and a plan put in place to institutionalize the system strengthening needs such as supply chain, improving procurement and distribution systems, training providers and the referral system among others.
The forum was an opportunity to deliberate on which of the health system factors have had a positive influence on the COVID-19 response, what needs to be improved and how to make the health system more resilient and support service delivery.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, WHO Ghana Country Representative to Ghana, Dr Francis Chisaka Kasolo said that the early Lives Saved Tool (LiST) modelling on the potential impact of reduced coverage of RMNCAH services projected that, a reduction of around 15% over a period of 6months would result in 253,500 additional child deaths and 12,190 additional maternal deaths. He further noted that a reduction in coverage of around 45% over a period of 6 months would result in over One million additional child deaths and 56,700 additional maternal deaths. He was quick to add that Ghana, had so far been spared these dire consequences because of the prompt and decisive actions taken and he expected that recommendations from the conference would be in line with the WHO Pillars for preparedness and response.
Dr Kasolo emphasized that previous outbreaks and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the vulnerability of health systems to public health emergencies and stressed the need to address gaps in preparedness and strengthen the resilience of health systems to respond without compromising other essential health services.
Country Representative for UNFPA, Niyi Ojualape expressed worry about the increasing reports of unintended pregnancies and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and called for an integration of SGBV prevention and response into the provision of essential services.
Chief of Staff at the Presidency, Madam Akosua Frema Osei-Opare used the occasion to commend health workers for being at the forefront of Ghana’s COVID-19 response.
She also applauded the private sector and Faith-Based Organizations for rising to the occasion to complement the efforts of government especially in providing isolation and treatment centers.
She revealed that the government’s strategy is to strengthen the health system and cultivate the enabling environment where skilled health professionals provide and make Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health services accessible to all.
In partnership with the Ghana Health Service, USAID Ghana is set to operationalize Ghana’s Modern Healthcare Centered Network of Practice, Nutritional support, and support the country to overcome the pandemic as well as prepare the health system to withstand future emergencies. According to Health Office Director, Ms. Janean Davis, USAID will continue to prioritize maternal health and nutrition in Ghana since it is essential to achieving Ghana’s vision of Universal Health Coverage.
Sustaining and improve the resilience of the health system to continue to deliver RMNCAHN services during PHE, Implementation of the Network of Practice using the Model Health Center approach, the use of ICT to enhance the delivery of RMNCAHN services, and A call to engage more deliberately and bring on board the private sector are some key next steps after the 2021 MNCAH Conference.