Gaborone — Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Alfred Madigele has called for the strengthening of neonatal care to reduce Botswana's infant mortality rate.
Speaking at the 7th annual conference of Botswana Paediatric Association in Gaborone recently, he said the rate remained higher than that of developed nations with neonates being the majority of those deaths.
Dr Madigele pointed out that during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the late 1990s to early 2000s, Botswana's infant mortality rate had reached an alarming rate of 58.80 per 1 000 live births.
He said by last year, the country had been able to reduce the rate by half to 29.69 per 1 000 live births due to the success of Botswana's comprehensive HIV programme and overall improvement in the health service delivery.
Improved neonatal care would not only lead to a reduction in the infant mortality rate but the improved general well-being of the population, he said.
Dr Madigele said for years, infant mortality rate had been used as an indicator of the population health, with countries with lower rates considered to be having a sound health care system while those with high rates were considered to have a poor health care system.
He said trained manpower, resources and state of the art infrastructure and medicines were necessary for achieving a high level of care.
The minister said neonatal outcomes were interlinked with antenatal care such that improved antenatal care led to excellent neonatal outcomes.
He said the health ministry was committed to investing in the state of the art Sir Ketumile Masire Hospital to enable it to take a leading role in developing and providing specialist care in areas of great need such as neonatal care.
Health, he said, was the cornerstone for the nations' survival.
"With good health, our productivity as a country goes up, so is our economy and in overall the people will live longer, " he said.
He however said Botswana still had a long way to achieve the best standards.
Dr Madigele said the experience of combating communicable diseases such as HIV proved that the standards were achievable if there was commitment and collaborations with the international community.
Further, he said the ministry was supportive of any initiatives and collaborations as a way of enhancing the care and overall outcomes of neonates.
Dr Madigele said government had put in place measures to ensure smooth collaboration between health professionals and international partners.
Botswana Paediatric Association is collaborating with the University of Botswana Faculty of Medicine and Norwegian Paediatric Association in striving to take services to the nation.
The two-day conference was held under the theme "Towards better Neonatal Health".
<i>Source : BOPA</i>