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General News of Thursday, 3 May 2007

Source: GNA

Nation loses 18,000 new born babies a year-doctor

Mankessim (C/R), May 3, GNA- Dr. Isabella Sagoe-Moses, National Child Health Co-ordinator, on Thursday expressed concern that the nation loses close to 18,000 new-born babies every year, and that recorded figures were a gross underestimation of what was actually happening in the communities.

She expressed dismay that a number of these do not even make it through full-term pregnancy, thereby having little chance of survival, while others who make it to full-term, are born too small and are at a greater risk of dying.

Dr Sagoe-Moses was speaking at the national launch of this year's week-long celebration of "Child Health Promotion Week" (CHPW), at Mankessim in the central region.

It is under the theme, "care for the new born-start right" and is being organized by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) with support from UNICEF, WHO and USAID.

The week, aims at, among others, show-casing the package of interventions available within the health system all year round to give new-born babies a better start to life and a fair chance to not only survive but grow and develop to achieve their highest potential. It includes registration of the birth of children below the age of one, immunization exercise, growth promotion, re-treatment of bed-nets, administration of vitamin "A" supplement and the provision of child health records' cards.

She pointed out that the situation could be remedied if pregnant women accessed antenatal services early and regularly throughout the period of pregnancy and refrained from delivering under the care of people "who do not have the slightest idea about the dangers associated with delivery or what to do to save a mother or baby when the birth became difficult".

Dr Sagoe-Moses stressed that as Ghana moved forward in this year of Jubilee, she could not afford to lose any potential for development to neonatal death, and that, "we need them all to make it to our centenary".

In an address read for her, Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs (MWCA) also echoed concern over infant mortality rates, which currently indicate that it involved 27 percent for children under five years.

She stated that objective 'four' of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of promoting healthy lives, would not be achieved, unless there was a drastic reduction in such deaths and overall infant mortality rates.

She said even though the statistics paint a disturbing phenomenon for child survival, growth and development, interventions like intensified awareness creation on child care practices, enhanced collaboration among stakeholders and the active involvement of parents had helped to reduce the under five mortality rate.

Hajia Mahama said government will continue to commit itself towards the protection, survival and growth of its young ones through the formation of comprehensive policy frameworks and strategies to create a conducive healthy environment for the Ghanaian child.

The government will also continue to take measures, such as through the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) to improve the standard of living and quality of life of families in order to enhance the welfare of children.

Dr Elias Sory, Director-General of the GHS, in a speech also read for him, said at the age of 50, the nation should strive at improving the survival and development of its new-born babies to provide the necessary human capacity for development. He said the desired impact of a significant reduction in maternal and neonatal deaths could only be achieved when interventions were accessible to at least 90 percent of those who needed them. He said this year, in line with the focus on new-born care, pregnant women who were due for immunization against tetanus will also be vaccinated in order to protect their babies from the infection which, he said, was one of the major killers in the early days of life. Dr Sory therefore urged all parents and guardians of children below the age of five as well as pregnant women to visit the clinic or hospital to avail themselves of these services, adding that all Ghanaians have a role to play during the week set aside and throughout the year to ensure that new-born babies started life on the right footing. Dr Joaquim Saweka, WHO representative in Ghana said in spite of the dismal picture of the child health situation, he said his outfit acknowledged the progress made in some areas like accelerated measles control where death rate has dropped by as much as 75 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and that Ghana has not recorded any deaths from measles since 2003.

Nana Ato Arthur, the Regional Minister, in a welcoming address read for him, said it has been reported that for every new born baby that died, another 20 faced illness disabilities from conditions such as birth injury, infection and other complications of premature birth.

He said ensuring quality health delivery was not the sole responsibility of those in the health sector, and called for a closer collaboration among all stakeholders such as the government, health workers, traditional authorities the media and civil society organisations. 03 May, 2007