UNICEF Partners Delta to Tackle High Maternal, Newborn Deaths

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By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

 The Delta State Government has expressed determination to halt the high incidence of maternal and newborn deaths in the state with the launch of the Delta State Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance And Response (MPDSR) Report 2017-2018, a policy document aimed at addressing the situation.

Delivering a keynote address at a ceremony organised by the state government in collaboration with UNICEF and support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, charged healthcare givers at all levels to give vent to the initiative by placing emphasis on saving lives above all other considerations.

Dr. Ononye noted that the inaugurated policy document was really work in progress as the state through the Health Ministry was already working towards the attainment of stated objective as the policy was actually shaped by information and data gathered from the field, including tertiary, secondary and primary healthcare facilities across the state.

The Health Commissioner said, ‘’What we need to do is to strengthen the process. Deaths and births are being recorded, and even deaths are now being reviewed to track the cause.

‘’We must all arise to the responsibility of saving lives. This is a call to action, so everyone of us must do the needful. Government is improving funding to the health sector, and the government will hold us accountable for our actions and inaction in the discharge of our responsibilities as healthcare providers.’’

Nevertheless, Dr. Ononye assured that an executive bill which would make confidential report of all maternal and newborn mortality mandatory was underway, adding that it would go a long way in addressing the challenge when passed into law.

‘’The draft MPDSR Bill, which provides the legal framework for MPDSR Process and makes mandatory the reporting of All Maternal and Perinatal Death in Delta State will soon be sent as an Executive Bill to the
state House of Assembly,’’ he said.

The UNICEF Health Specialist, UNICEF Rivers Field Office, Dr. Abe Eghe, in a goodwill message, stressed that the disturbing indices of maternal and newborn deaths due medical challenges were unacceptable to the extent that they undermine the fundamental human right of the child to life.

He said that launch of the state’s annual MPDSR report underscored ‘’the grave situation of mothers and newborns dying during child birth or immediately after birth.’’

The UNICEF health specialist noted that ‘’every year an estimated 2.5 million newborns die globally with another 2.6 million stillborn. In Delta State three (03) out of 10 (28%) newborn babies due yearly after delivery (according to MICS 2016/2017 survey) and 449 pregnant women would die during pregnancy or childbirth, according to Delta Health Development Performance Report 2013.’’

Dr. Eghe asserted, ‘’The foregoing negates the fundamental human right of the child to survival and health as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by the Nigerian Government in 1991.

‘’The only panacea to this scourge is, therefore, to find out how many deaths are occurring, why the deaths are occurring and the extenuating circumstances militating against proper and adequate response, which constitute the major objective of the MPDSR programme.’’

While commending the Delta State Government ‘’for some strides that have been made in improving outcomes for mothers and their newborns. This report would, therefore, afford us an opportunity to have a story behind every death that occurs so as to fashion out adequate interventions and guide policy directions for implementation of identified interventions.

‘’It is clear that hemorrhage is very high in the cause of deaths. And our recommendation is that they should improve their blood transfusion policy. The next one is the MPDSR Bill, there is a draft bill right now before the Ministry of Justice because it is an executive bill. And, we are talking about fast tracking that bill, and I am happy that the government has agreed because if that bill is passed into law, it makes it mandatory and compulsory for death to be reported. It also makes the work of the MPDSR committee easier because when deaths are reported, you are able to review the deaths.

‘’When it is reviewed, you are able to know why the mothers and babies are dying, and when you know why, it helps in bringing out interventions that will reduce those deaths, which is what UNICEF and other bodies are after. It is part of the ‘Every Child Alive Global Programme’, and what we aim to achieve is to reduce preventable deaths.”

And we are going to support Delta State in the launch of their ‘Every New Born’ action plan.’’

In his remarks the Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Hon Festus Ovie Agas who formally launched the state MPDSR, said that Governor Okowa had consistently showed commitment to improving the health and living condition of the majority of Delta State citizens, noting that the establishment of the state Contributory Health Insurance Commission was a major step to realise the governor’s promise of ‘’available and affordable healthcare for all Deltans.’’

Agas said, ‘’This policy document is a landmark document; it is about the state maternal and neonatal death surveillance report. That is to say every death and birth is carefully recorded to enable government plan well. Importantly, they (steering committee and UNICEF) made far reaching recommendations to government. Among other things, there is need for government to pass a law to make it compulsory for every health institution to report all deaths.

‘’The implication is that government will be in a better position to plan for her citizens. Recall that one of our promises is prosperity for all Deltans, that abundance particularly in the area of health is of utmost importance to us. We are working on that bill.’’

The Chairman, State Steering Committee of the MPDSR, Dr. Patrick Okonta, also presented a comprehensive statistical analysis of the maternal and perinatal situation in the state particularly in the tertiary and secondary healthcare facilities in the state, saying local interventions such as improvement in health facilities including larger blood banks in hospitals would complement the use of medical ambulance to ameliorate the situation.

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