On Wednesday, July 11, the entire globe, led by the United Nations (UN) marked World Population Day with a call by the Secretary-General that Member States ought to invest in reproductive health as that is a crucial investment for healthy societies and more sustainable future. The call is very apt, and indeed very relevant, to the current state of reproductive health, and for that matter maternal health, particular by in Ghana.
In Ghana, 450 mothers died per every 100,000 live births in 2008, according to a 2010 government and UN joint report. Maternal mortality tends to be even higher in rural communities in northern Ghana, according to IRIN, a UN news service.
While pregnancy and childbirth tend to be joyous times for families in developed countries, both are dangerous and even fatal in developing countries. United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) calls the gap between maternal health care for women in rich and poor nations the greatest health divide in the world.
According to UNICEF, 80 per cent of maternal deaths could be avoided with access to essential maternity and basic health care services. About 1,000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth around the world every day, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). And 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
In Ghana, cultural beliefs and a lack of resources mean that many mothers do not get the care they need to carry and deliver their babies. Maternal mortality in Ghana has slowed in recent years, but rates have not improved enough to meet the 2015 target agreed to by countries worldwide.
The high maternal mortality rate in Ghana is largely attributed to the lack of access to medical care for expectant mothers which leads to delays and complications that could otherwise be avoided. But advocates say there are also cultural challenges, such as traditional beliefs, which often limit care options, and decisions to have illegal and sometimes self-induced abortions. Since 2007, the government has made an effort to slow the country?s maternal mortality rate, but it is not on track to meet the global target of a 75 per cent reduction by 2015.
The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, has identified the three most common medical delays that can lead to maternal death. The first and most common delay occurs when family members make the decision of whether to take a woman to a health centre for care. The second delay occurs as a result of unreliable and lengthy transportation required to get a woman to the health centre. And the third delay occurs at the health centre where most women have to wait because of a backlog of patients and paperwork often caused by understaffing.
The seven billion people now inhabiting the planet has resulted in multiple crises food, fuel and financial causing significant suffering and serving as a wake-up call for the need to pay far more attention to the building blocks of sustainable development. Reproductive health is an indispensable part of the sustainable development equation. Women and young people who are in good health, and who have the power and means to make their own decisions about how many children to have and when to have them are better able to contribute to the development of their societies.
It is against this backdrop that Public Agenda calls on our health authorities to remove all bottlenecks in the way of the implementation of the free maternal health care policy. This calls for adequate resources in terms of funds, personnel and appropriate equipment. It must be emphasised loud and clear that bringing life into the world should not cause the avoidable death of any prospective mother in our motherland Ghana.