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Health News of Monday, 19 December 2005

Source: GNA

Infant mortality rates in Upper East Region reduce

Tamale, Dec 19, GNA- The introduction of the Accelerated Child Survival Development Approach (ACSA) in the Upper West Region by UNICEF as part of interventions in the health sector to reduce infant mortality rates has reduced under-five mortality rate in the region to 17 per cent.

While the region was ranked the third highest in the country with child mortality at 155 per 1000 live births in 1998 it now has an under-five mortality rate of 79 per 1,000 live births, according to the Ghana Demographic Health Survey (GDHS) of 2003 making it the second region with the lowest U5MR.

Dr Elias Massesa, Resident Project Office of UNICEF, Tamale, said this at a four-day workshop in Tamale on Monday. The workshop was on ''Partnership For High Impact, Rapid Delivery Approach for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (4 and 5) for the Health Sector.''

He said studies indicated that the ACSA approach has had a positive impact at various levels of the health system in the Upper East Region. Because of this success, it is now being integrated into the Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Medium Term Expenditure Frame works to improve the financing of health interventions and to increase staff motivation at health facilities.

Dr Massesa said comparing the success story of the Upper East Region to the Northern Region, one finds out that despite many life saving interventions being implemented, mothers, infants and young children continue to die at an alarming rate in the region.

Dr Massesa said the Northern region had been benefiting from the ACSD approach implemented in the Upper East Region since 2002 and the Tolon /Kumbugu district, Savelugu/Nanton district, Zabzugu/Tatale district and Yendi district are implementing the final phase of ACSD packages.

He said the goal of UNICEF was to join hands with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and other partners to replicate the success story of the Upper East Region in the Northern Region.

The programme in the Northern Region, he said, would be a behaviour-centred initiative as the majority of interventions would seek to promote changed behaviours such as wide utilisation of treated bed nets by target populations and the promotion of family practices on hygiene, exclusive breastfeeding and complimentary feeding.

Dr Massesa said under the programmed for the Northern Region communication packages would also be designed to focus on target audiences and communities in order to strengthen community capacity to promote healthy behaviours.

He said the key goal of UNICEF in the region would also be to ensure that there is sufficient number of staff and volunteers in place in all hard-to-reach communities through capacity building and active outreach programmes.

Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, the Northern Regional Minister, said in a speech read for him that improving the health sector was a key to the government's drive at reducing poverty.

This is because an unhealthy labour force gives rise to low production and productivity which in turn breeds poverty, leading to a self perpetuating circle of poverty and ill-health.

He urged all district assemblies in the region to speed up the implementation of their schemes and furnish the Regional Coordinating council (RCC) with the status of their schemes.

Alhaji Boniface said in planning to achieve the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals there was the need to be very objective and economical in the input requirements for the programmed to ensure value for money in the implementation stage.

He said there was also the need to bring to the fore, the use of primary health care service delivery by a highly motivated staff that would take health service closer to the people.