ProNet North assists fight against maternal deaths

Ghana’s efforts to reach the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on maternal and child health may not have run very smoothly, but hope turned into joy for stakeholders when the Community Benefits Health (CBH) project was launched in the Upper West Region last Thursday.

The gathering of politicians, health service providers, international bodies, non-governmental organizations, chiefs, community leaders and community dwellers on Saawie in the Jirapa District occasioned real belief that Ghana had focused eyes on the MDGs on maternal and child health.

MDGs 4 and 5 require reduction of mortality rate among children under five years by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and then reduction of maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015.

So when the Deputy Minister for Upper West Region, Abu Kabiebata Kansangbata, declared that  “Let us all remember that the future of Africa, Ghana and the Upper West Region resides in the belly of mothers”, it proved to be the endorsement for the CBH as a complementary effort for various interventions to reduce maternal and child mortality.

“Clearly, the recognition by all stakeholders to improve the health of children and mothers truly shows that we cannot continue to do business as usual if we have to save the lives of our mothers, babies and children from needless and preventable deaths,” Mr Kansangbata said at the launch of the project.

He said the CBH project in the Upper West Region “will go a long way to complement the efforts of the government in providing quality and affordable health services to the citizenry”.

A number of global, regional and national commitments, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5, call for a drastic reduction in child and maternal mortality by 2015, and the Deputy Minister said the United Nations’ campaign of “Every woman Every child” led by the UN Secretary-General and which seeks to intensify global and national efforts to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 are laudable efforts.

The Community Benefits Health (CBH) project initiated by ProNet North – a local Non-Governmental Organization with interest in maternal and child health, girl child and disability education, and water and sanitation – consists of innovative interventions and strategies to address common barriers in order to improve access to maternal, newborn and child health services.

Rather than the many monetary-based projects, the CBH is a community-driven innovation that encourages women to access ante-natal care, supervised delivery of babies and post-natal care for both mothers and babies.

It is currently working in 51 communities across three districts that comprise 12 benefit communities in the Upper West Region.

According to Martin Dery, Director of ProNet North, communities that attained set targets of the CBH would be entitled to a community project such as borehole, community transport or a dam for irrigation to be sponsored by ProNet, with support and sponsorship from international partners, to enhance the living standards of the relevant communities. Indeed, those community projects, he said, served as the incentive to entice the communities to encourage their members to access maternal and child healthcare services.

The project, according to Mr Dery, sought to achieve increased awareness and knowledge on importance of accessing ante-natal care, supervised delivery, post-natal care among women and community members in target districts.

It involved community influencers such as chiefs, women’s groups and village health committees who would mobilize relevant resources to enable women access such critical services in a timely manner, while at the same time those influencers were expected to convene community meetings to discuss and advocate the added benefits of ante-natal and post-natal care and delivery of babies by professionals or trained personnel.

The Upper West Regional Director of Health, Dr Abudulai A. Forgor, said the CBH was in line with the strategic direction of improving geographical access to health through the community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) programme.

He said the region had chalked some successes in health, including increasing the CHPS zones to 241 from 197 in 2004, with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the process of constructing a further 38compounds.

He acknowledged, however, that challenges still existed notwithstanding the many successes chalked by the region in health care delivery.

The programmes manager of United States-based Concern Worldwide, Jahera Otieno, said they looked forward to the outcome of CBH project with the hope that the target would be achieved at the end of the two-and-a-half years that the project is expected to last.

It was on the knowledge of all this that the community dwellers joined the many speech makers in celebration long after an eight-member governing committee of community volunteers who would spearhead the project

By: Mahama Latif/