IN an effort to save the lives of pregnant mothers and their newborn children, the World Health Organisation in partnership with the European Union and the health ministry, is constructing maternity waiting homes at Opuwo.
This was made possible after the European Union the (EU) extended the Programme for Accelerating the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PARMaCM) to enable the construction to proceed.
About two weeks ago, a delegation from the WHO and EU, accompanied by ministry of health officials based at Opuwo, undertook a site inspection to see how far the maternity waiting homes had progressed.
WHO country representative Charles Sagoe-Moses said at the site although it has been a long process getting to this stage after facing many challenges, he was happy with the progress being made.
"We would like to congratulate the government of Namibia, the health ministry and the town council of Opuwo for the combined effort to bringing this project thus far. We would also like to express our immense gratitude to the EU for extending their PARMaCM programme," Sagoe-Moses said.
He added that maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
"Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and deaths as a result of pregnancy than other women. Access to skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies," said Sagoe-Moses.
Under PARMaCM, maternity waiting homes are being built next to health facilities in four regions across Namibia to replace the makeshift camps and also to provide rural women with a safe place to stay.
The homes are set up as dormitories with communal kitchens, dining halls, bathrooms and meeting areas and can host up to 80 women.
European Union ambassador to Namibia, Jana Hybaskova, said when she visited Opuwo in 2015, she met different people, among them traditional leaders.
"The traditional leaders complained about lack of equipment at Opuwo, and today I am happy we could manage to get some equipment and that it is here to help for better health. We are here to support, and where else to start than at Opuwo?
"The people in Kunene need our support, especially the mothers and children. We are also aware of the difficulties, and I would like to congratulate the Opuwo people for the efforts you also put in. There is change, and I am glad to be part of this change," said Hybaskova.
Apart from donating different health equipment and various ambulances, the EU also trained most health workers in different fields.
Hybaskova also added that the EU could not do this alone.
"Help us to help you, the people, from around Opuwo in the Kunene region. We should be able to reach out to the people in the remotest areas. Thus, we need more ambulances. We need to work together with the health ministry to make this possible," said Hybaskova.
The deputy permanent secretary of health, Bertha Katjivena, said taking care of sick people should not just be the responsibility of the ministry.
"We need to join hands as this should be our responsibility. We do not want mothers and their babies to die any more, and at least now they are close to trained healthcare workers. This will ensure proper counselling to women on various health topics," Katjivena said.
According to the Demographic and Health Survey, the proportion of stillbirths in Namibia was 8 per 1 000 total births in 2014.
This was one of the lowest rates in sub-Saharan Africa, and below the global target of 12 or fewer stillbirths per 1000 total births by 2030 set in the Every Newborn Action Plan endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2014.
The survey further shows that of the stillbirths, the number occurring less than 12 hours before or during childbirth, has decreased by 18% in less than five years.
This is mainly due to improvements in quality of childbirth facilities, emergency obstetric care and mothers choosing to deliver their babies in maternity facilities, according to the Namibian DHS.