Ghana has for the past six years, been organizing an annual stakeholders’ conference to highlight key issues facing newborns in Ghana and to draw action plans towards addressing some of the key challenges. The need for this annual event emanated from the realization that the decline in Ghana’s neonatal mortality rate had stagnated over the years. Ghana’s current neonatal mortality rate of 29 per 1000 live births contributes to over 40% of under 5 mortality and 75% of infant mortality. The focus on newborn health is a step in the right direction because success in bringing down neonatal mortality will automatically lead to significant reduction in the other child mortality rates.
The 2017 National Newborn Stakeholders’ conference was held in Accra at the Mensvic Grand Hotel. The broad theme was “Quality Care, My Right” and the sub-themes: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Respectful Care. The forum served as opportunity to advocate for and obtain stakeholders’ commitment, participation and accountability for improving care for newborns and reducing the neonatal mortality rate.
Some dignitaries present were the Deputy Minister of Health, Hon. Kingsley Aboagye-Gyedu , the Director-General of Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare and his deputy, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Country Representatives of UN agencies including Dr. Owen Kaluwa the Country Representative of the World Health Organization and the Mission Director of USAID Dr. Steven Hendrix. There were over 150 participants drawn from Ghana’s Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service, the Private Health Sector, the Parliament of Ghana, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Paediatric Society of Ghana, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Ghana, Academia, Development partners, Civil Society Organizations and the Media.
The Honourable Deputy Minister of Health, Mr. Kingsley Gyedu Aboagye, reiterated the ministry’s committee to continue efforts to improve the quality of care for newborns. He stressed the need for multi-sectoral collaborations with the Health Sector to implement Ghana’s Newborn Agenda within the context of the National Quality Health Strategy and the National Newborn Health Strategy and Action Plan (2014-2018).
In a statement made by Dr. Owen Laws Kaluwa (Country Representative of WHO, Ghana) on behalf of the United Nations system, he commended Ghana for the great efforts the country has invested in the area of newborn health over the years through the implementation of the National Newborn Health Strategy and action plan and the country’s commitment to the Global network to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns. Since majority of newborn deaths (75%) occur during the first week of life, with a large proportion occurring around the time of birth and within the first 24 hours of delivery he stressed the need to invest in the quality of care provided during the critical period around the time of birth to ensure the survival and health of mothers and their newborns.
All speakers and discussants were unanimous in adding their voice to this call. Dr. Roseline Doe, Maternal and Child Health Officer (WHO) gave a global perspective on quality health care for Newborns. Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director-General, Ghana Health Service who chaired the high-level Executive forum of the conference bemoaned the unacceptable rate of neonatal mortality in the light of the countries high coverage of antenatal, skilled delivery and postnatal care. He indicated that the three major causes of these deaths are known and preventable; premature births, infection and asphyxia. He encouraged all to commit to the national agenda to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns.