Mendefera Southern Region — Eritrea's impressive gains in improving maternal and neonatal health were the focus of a one-day visit to health facilities in the Southern Region by UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme), Dereje Wordofa, as well as Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, and Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, UNFPA Director of Programme Division.
Accompanied by Eritrea's Minister of Health, Amina Nurhussein, they saw at first hand the benefits of maternal and neonatal health interventions supported by UNFPA at Mendefera Zonal Referral Hospital.
One wing of the hospital has been set aside for fistula treatment. The hospital is the national referral facility for fistula treatment and as such, it attracts fistula patients from locations as far as 700 kilometres away for treatment. The incidence of obstetric fistula is reducing remarkably in the country.
A separate section of the hospital, set up with support from UNFPA, provides rehabilitation for fistula survivors, who receive psychosocial counselling, vocational training, and literacy classes to help them integrate in their communities when they return home. However, stigma remains a serious challenge. For fistula survivors, more than 40 per cent of marriages end in divorce.
The group also visited the Maternity Waiting Home at Adi Quala Community Hospital, which is supported by UNFPA. The home is contributing substantially to efforts to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. In view of the recent peace deal negotiated between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the hospital is now also providing services to women attending from Ethiopia.
Mr. Dereje thanked the Minister of Health and the health professionals for the tremendous achievements in improving maternal and neonatal health. "This country has a lot of stories to tell to the rest of the world on achieving the transformative results UNFPA is pursuing - ending preventable maternal deaths, ending unmet need for family planning, and ending gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices against women and girls."
UNFPA is to step up its support to help the country achieve its development targets, he advised.
Ms. Nurhussein said her Ministry would keep working with UNFPA and partners to ensure universal health coverage and achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Cooperation with partners has made a pivotal contribution to the achievements the country has made, she said.