The wife of the Vice President, Mrs Matilda Amissah-Arthur, has expressed concern about the increasing newborn mortality rate (NMR) in the country and called for concerted efforts by the general public to deal with the issue.
She said statistics from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) indicated that at least 320 out of 1,000 children under five years, died annually, and out of the figure, 120 were newborn.
Mrs Amissah-Arthur was speaking at the launch of “Helping Babies Breathe (HBB)” programme for trainees in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The HBB is an initiative by the Newmont Mining Company aimed at providing skilled training to birth attendants and other healthcare practitioners to equip them with the techniques of dealing with birth asphyxia, which occurs when babies do not breathe at birth due to trauma, and fatigue during labour.
The programme is being implemented by the company, in collaboration with Project CURE, a United States non-governmental organisation, in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Four, which relates to reducing child mortality.
Mrs Amissah-Arthur said on July 30, 2014, Ghana launched a national newborn care strategy and action plan to focus much attention on reducing neonatal mortality rate in the country.
She explained that the project, which was to run from 2014 to 2018, was to reduce neonatal deaths by five per cent annually and reach a national rate of 21 deaths per 1,000 births by 2018.
However, she said, the current neonatal death rate showed that there was still more to be done to reach the targeted goal by 2018.
According to her, the strategy would tackle policy gaps and professional practices in order to reduce the figures drastically.
Caring for newborn babies
Mrs Amissah-Arthur explained that “Evidence shows that 50 per cent of newborn babies’ death occurred within 24 hours of life”, noting that “there is now a concerted effort to work towards the reduction of newborn deaths”.
She said it was important that birth attendants knew exactly what to do and how to handle issues related to new births especially within the first few minutes of birth, adding, “If those crucial minutes are not handled properly, it can be very fatal because the first few minutes of the birth of a baby are very crucial”.
Mrs Amissah-Arthur advised birth attendants to treat women in labour with patience, stressing that “When you attend to the woman with love, it makes it easier for the woman to deliver”.
She commended Newmont Ghana for introducing the HBB programme, describing it as the much-needed approach to save newborn babies,and expressed the hope that the trainers would take the workshop seriously to enable them train their colleagues as well.
Essence of the training
The Director for External Affairs and Communications of Newmont Ghana, Ms Adiki Ayitevie, said HBB “is an evidence- based programme to teach simple interventions that will reduce over 90 per cent of newborn deaths”.
She added that the country had a high newborn mortality rate due to birth asphyxia, prolonged labour and obstructed labour.
She also said the programme was expected to train 24 nurses, midwives and community birth attendants in the region after which the trainees would be expected to train other identified people in the communities for greater impacts.