The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has organised the 7th edition of a 3-day ‘New-born Stakeholders’ Conference held in Accra themed “Reaching Every Newborn, Count Down to 2030; Don’t leave me out,”.
According to the Country Director of UNICEF, Anne-Claire Dufay the event was an opportunity to review progress made especially in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, targets set for 2030 for all countries which includes reducing new-born deaths to as low as 12 per thousand live births.
Currently, Ghana has reduced the number of the new-born deaths from the 2011 figure of 32 per thousand live births to 25 per thousand live births in 2017.
She said a lot of additional effort will be needed to meet the SDGs target which include making sure that mothers and families have access to adequate health care adding that “We need to figure out where to allocate funding which will focus on new-born care as well as advocacy”.
Madam Dufay noted the government of Ghana has been implementing activities such as the baby friendly hospital initiative and the ‘Kangaroo mother-care’ approach where a parent holds the baby close to their chest to help the baby survive.
She revealed that one major issue they face is in the area of handling and addressing traditional culture or beliefs that sometimes hinder the results and safety of new-born care.
She said some mothers practice some traditions including giving birth at home which results in more complications and often increases the number of neonatal cases in the country. She advised mothers to attend antenatal regularly and also seek medical assistance during pregnancy.
She reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to support the government, the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service to continuously save lives and promote the survival and growth of babies in Ghana.
On her part, USAID Mission Director to Ghana, Sharon Cromer said the government of Ghana has made a clear commitment to move Ghana beyond aid and pave a path to self-reliance. She said however, the country may not be able to fulfil this vision without first investing in its new-borns, and more broadly, in early childhood development.
She noted that: “Children require foundational pillars to ensure their overall well-being which covers good health and nutrition. Safety and security, responsive care-giving and opportunities for learning are very key for childhood development.”
She added that early experiences and the environment in which children develop in their first thousand days, have a lasting impact on the child’s brain development and well-being. “During this period, children’s brains can form 1,000 neural connections every second. Deficits in development during this early period are estimated to cost a child, as she or he matures to adulthood”, said Madam Cromer.
Reading a speech on behalf of the Minister for Health, the Director for Administration and Legal at the Ministry of Health, Hamidu Adakurugu reiterated Government’s commitment to ensuring quality service for maternal and new-born child healthcare.
He said several internationally recommended interventions as well as local initiatives are being implemented by the Ministry, sector agencies and partners to promote child survival and development.
He said for the first time in decades, a significant decline of about 19 per cent has been recorded with neonatal mortality rate.
Mr. Adakurugu noted government policies such as provision of free antenatal, delivery and post-natal services, and the expansion of Community-based Planning and Services would continue to be pursued as efforts were made to improve the implementation and coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme.
He said the Ministry would soon revise the current National New-born and Action plan (2014-2018), as such the outputs of the stakeholders’ meeting would be taken on board in developing the next strategy.
“We will need to work across sectors and with all stakeholders to make sure the necessary provisions to ensure that all new-borns in all corners of the country are reached”, he said.