New Health Strategy To Reduce Neonatal Deaths

Dr Kwaku Agyemang Mensah, (2nd right) holding the Newborn Action Plan, with him are USAID representative, Andrews Karas (right), Susan Ngongi and Magda Rabalo, WHO country representative at the event

A NEW national newborn health strategy and action plan has been unveiled by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to reduce the neonatal rates that still remain too high in the country.

The integrated, comprehensive and data-driven road map would measurably improve services and care for newborns and translate urgent need into lifesaving action and protect the ‘littlest’ and most vulnerable citizens by 2018. Although Ghana has reduced the national overall under-five mortality rate in the last decade, this change largely reflects improvement in the health of infants and older children; decrease in neonatal deaths have not kept pace.

Newborns have accounted for a disproportionate number of total under-five deaths and the burden has grown over the past five years.

Currently, among newborns that die, 50 percent would lose their lives on the day of their births and 75 percent by the end of the first week of life.

Dr Isabella Sagoe Moses, National Child Health Coordinator, (GHS) said the plan does not seek to institute a new vertical programme to achieve the goal of having a further reduction in the country’s maternal mortality by five percent and institutional care by 35 percent.

Rather, she noted that it is to serve as a guide for leaders to develop and implement activities within the already existing Ghana Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Acceleration Framework Action Plan and Ghana National Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Framework.

The plan, she said, takes an integrated approach to saving lives and improving health for Ghana’s newborns and their mothers.

‘This includes a wide spectrum of activities, from implementing, policies that support care to building the capacity of health workers and facilities and strengthening monitoring and evaluation,’ she said.

Dr Moses emphasized the important role of stakeholders in ensuring that the action plan meets its goals through supporting and collaboration with other agencies.

Dr Kwaku Agyemang Mensah, Minister of Health, lauded the efforts of agencies and personalities that contributed to the development of the strategy, adding that was the moral right and ethical responsibility for everyone to ensure newborn survive.

He said improved child health has been a priority for the ministry thus through the promise renewed movement and the Global Every Newborn Action Plan, the country has finally developed its strategic action plan.

‘My ministry with your support will lead the way in ensuring the dissemination and implementation of the plan including coordinating the efforts keen to contribute to the newborn crusade,’ he said.

Susan Ngongi, United Nations Childrens Fund, (UNICEF) country representative in her bemoaned the high rate of death of children within the first few days.

She said, ‘Looking at the number of children born alive each year in Ghana, this means in real terms that every 60 minutes, four babies are dying, one newborn death every 15 minutes.’

‘All we need to do to act now to avert any more deaths of our newborns,’ she said.

The UNICEF representative therefore called for more trained skilled personnel and the provision of all the necessary equipments and commodities as well as close collaboration with communities.

BY Jamila Akweley Okertchiri

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