Ghana Losing Babies to Birth Asphyxia

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Forty-eight per cent of all under five mortality in the country are new-born deaths.

Out of the number 30 per cent of these deaths are associated with birth asphyxia, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has said.

Birth asphyxia is a health condition that is caused as a result of the failure of a new-born to initiate and sustain a normal breathing at birth and it is also the major cause of convulsion in new-borns.

The number of such cases are frightening and a major concern to stakeholders, especially, mothers and care givers, hence the need for focus and interventions during this critical period to ensure the improvement on the quality of care delivery systems in the country.

This was made known at the 5th annual stakeholders conference held in Accra to take stock of the implementation of the national new-born strategy and action plan for 2014-2018 and chart the way forward.

The theme for the three-day conference was: “Save me from asphyxia: help me breathe, help me live!”

The conference is aimed at improving intra-partum monitoring for better neonatal outcomes.

Addressing the participants, Dr Gloria Quansah Asare, Deputy Director General of GHS, said the conference would provide a platform to discuss issues affecting the health of new-borns and come out with key recommendations that would guide the national agenda for improving survival and development of all babies below one month of age.

For this reason the aim of the meeting was to raise awareness among stakeholders on the need to prevent and manage adverse effects that happens during child birth including birth asphyxia, she said.

She said the number of mortality cases recorded over the years, calls for strategic plan to be coined to reduce new-born deaths if not to end it.

Dr Christabel Enweronu-Laryea, the Head Paediatrician at the Department of Child Health, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, in her overview said asphyxia could be caused due to problems within the uterus, placenta, umbilical cord and foetus as well as nature.

She said the situation though worrisome could be averted if pregnant women are monitored properly and given the needed medical attention upon delivery.

Mothers therefore need a lot of preparedness says Dr Enweronu-Laryea, since this could happen around the time before, during and soon after birth and at everywhere and level.

“We need effective monitoring of labour process in such cases to avoid any complications.”

She advised that birth asphyxia be viewed as an opportunity to improve the overall healthcare delivery systems in the country to prevent these occurrences.

Dr Enweronu-Laryea said a total of 10,166 babies died in 2015 due to birth asphyxia and as a result there was “the need for an interplay between policy, politics and health system to save the situation.

Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, the Deputy Director in charge of Reproductive and Child Health at GHS said the National New-born Sub-committee launched two years ago had identified 14 health strategies to help address neonatal deaths.

She said the implementation of the strategies has since helped in the slight reduction of the number of deaths, saying “there is the need to bring on board all stakeholder partners and institution to improve data quality”.

Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, expressed government’s commitment in working to ensure that labour and delivery are monitored efficiently to reduce infant mortality.

Mr Alex Segbefia, Minister of Health, in a speech read on his behalf said investing in new-borns means investing in the foundations of the future of this nation, the foundations for sustainable national growth, development and progress.

He said failure to prevent birth asphyxia therefore, had the tendency to result in some babies who would survive the condition but left with permanent brain injuries of various severities.

“As policy makers, health workers, families, religious leaders, traditional leaders and communities we all have the moral and ethical responsibility to contribute and support in preventing the occurrences of this burdensome condition of birth asphyxia in our new-borns,” the Minister said.

The partners for the initiative included UNICEF, USAID, World Health Organisation, Colombia, Israel, Path, Ubora, midwives, doctors, and nurses among others.

Source: GNA

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