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Ghana sees decline in neonatal and maternal mortality rates: Midwives hailed for tireless efforts

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Ghana has recorded a reduction in neonatal and institutional maternal mortalities. According to the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, neonatal mortality decreased from 7.1 per 10,000 births to 6.5 per 10,000 births, while institutional maternal mortality ratio (IMMR) dropped from 111 per 100,000 live births to 102 per 100,000 over the period. Dr Kuma-Aboagye praised midwives and other health personnel for their hard work and dedication, noting that the gains made were remarkable, though they seemed marginal.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye made this known during his speech at the 32nd International Day of the Midwife in Cape Coast, Central Region, on the theme: “Together again, from evidence to reality.” He also revealed that there had been a significant improvement in maternal and newborn health outcomes over the past decade. Dr Kuma-Aboagye disclosed that total maternal deaths reduced by 70 lives saved, moving from 875 deaths in 2021 to 805 deaths in 2022.

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Midwives were recognized for their hard work with awards given to 22 of them, one from each of the 16 regions, and five from Teaching Hospitals in the country for their dedication to duty. Furthermore, the midwife to women in fertility age (WIFA) ratio improved from one midwife to 720 women in fertility age in 2017, to one midwife to 387 women in fertility age in 2021.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye noted that haemoglobin checks at registration, incidence of anaemia in late pregnancy (36 weeks), skilled delivery coverage, and antenatal care (ANC) clients making fourth visits had improved over the years. Moreover, the absolute number of midwives in the country had surpassed the World Health Organization’s standard of six to seven midwives per 1,000 institutional deliveries by almost two folds. Currently, the nation has 13 midwives per 1,000 institutional deliveries.

However, Dr Kuma-Aboagye emphasized the need for the health system to restructure to promote midwifery leadership at all levels, embrace midwifery innovation, encourage evidence-based practice, and institute the character of empathy in midwives, allowing for the practice to be guided by the sensitivities of clients. He acknowledged that midwives continue to work under harsh conditions, often at the peril of their own progress and the cost to their families. The President of the Ghana Registered Midwives Association, Netta Forson Ackon, called for better conditions of service to empower members to give their best.

For the most part, midwives have been frontline heroes in the fight against maternal and neonatal deaths. The UNFPA Country Representative, Dr David Wilfred Ochan, urged stakeholder agencies to work to scale up best practices to help achieve zero preventable deaths. It is essential to celebrate midwives’ achievements while recognizing the need for more support to help them continue to save lives.

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