WHO Calls For Holistic Approach To Tackle Neonatal Mortality

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is a need for Ghana to have a holistic approach towards reducing neonatal mortality to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.

Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Representative to Ghana, said at the current pace, Ghana could only reduce the neonatal mortality rate to 20 per 1000 live births by 2030 against the SDGs target of 12 deaths per 1000 live births.

He said the United Nations (UN) commends Ghana for the great efforts made, by investing in the area of newborn health over the years through the implementation of the National Newborn Health Strategy and Action Plan (2014-2018) and also for the development of the new strategy to give direction for the next five years.

Dr Kaluwa said this at the opening of the Eighth Annual Newborn Stakeholders’ Conference in Accra.

The three-day conference, which is being hosted by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ministry of Health, is being held under the theme: “Survive, Thrive and Transform: A Call to Action”.

Among its objectives is to sensitise key policy makers, health managers and frontline workers and the general public about the current state of newborns in Ghana; and to disseminate the National Newborn Health Strategy (2019-2023) and build consensus on its operationalisation.

Globally, there has been a remarkable improvement in child survival since 1990; the under-five mortality rate decreased by 58 per cebt, from 93 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 39 per 1000 live births in 2017.

The fall in the neonatal mortality, however, has been slower, decreasing from 37 per live births in 1990 to 18 per 1000 live births in 2017, hence, neonatal mortality is around 40 per cent of childhood mortality in 2017.

Dr Kaluwa, who represented the UN systems at the meeting, said every newborn must have the needed Basic Essential Newborn Care at the primary level, for the small and sick newborn.

At the secondary level, he said, they should be adequately equipped to offer special care and the tertiary levels should have the required standard Neonatal Intensive Care facilities to offer advanced care.

“There are proven evidence based interventions that when implemented can achieve the quality of care we desire and which our populace rightly deserve”, he said.

Dr Kaluwa said this required deliberate policy decisions that involve all relevant stakeholders in both private and public sectors and a strong political commitment to provide the needed resources.

Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Minister of Health, in a speech read on his behalf, said there have been a significant increase in percentage of deliveries conducted by skilled birth attendants at facilities; from 55 per cent in 2007 to 79 per cent in 2017, a 44 per cent increase.

He said this increase in health facility delivery made it incumbent on all stakeholders within their power to provide newborn babies the best start in life, thus fulfilling their responsibility of ensuring that their rights were protected and made a reality.

“Without a concerted effort of all stakeholders, including families and communities, our goal of reducing neonatal mortality by five per cent each year for the next five years will not be met”, the Minister said.

Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of the GHS, in a speech read on his behalf, said that GHS has scaled up essential newborn care across the country.

He said this has enabled babies to receive appropriate care at birth and in the immediate postpartum period.

Dr Nsiah-Asare said skin to skin contact with the mother to ensure warmth of the baby and Kangaroo Mother Care for small preterm babies, early initiation of breastfeeding and appropriate care of the umbilical cord care to prevent cord infection had improved the survival of babies.