Ghana’s Maternity Defect
An everyday occurrence of inherent significance. The reason why we are all here. An event where a crescendo of pain at the end of several months of burden climaxes in the production of a new life. It’s supposed to be a momentous occasion, one of great joy and happiness.
Childbirth, child mortality and maternal maternity are one of the barometers which many world surveys use to determine how developed a country is. For all Ghana’s great gains in recent years in terms of oil, infrastructure and various other commodities and areas of life, Ghana is struggling to provide a maternity system that can stand tall with pride.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established in 2000. All 189 United Nation member states including Ghana committed to help achieve these MDGs by 2015. MDGs 4 and 5 are particularly pertinent – to reduce child mortality (more specifically, to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate), and to improve maternal health (Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio).
The UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) is the lead UN agency for ‘delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.’ They released a report in 2011 titled The State of World’s Midwifery: Delivering Health, Saving Lives which showed that Ghana still had a lot to do in order to meet targets for 2015. Maternal deaths per 100000 births sat at 550 in 1990 and sat at 350 in 2010 – lagging behind many of our African counterparts and a world away from the UKs 12 in 100000.
And with 2015 literally just around the corner, a lot of work needs to be done in Ghana – fast. However, the state of affairs of a maternity service of a country which is priding itself as a standard-bearer of Africa in the 21st century is below-par.
Maternity facilities are severely overpopulated in Ghana’s big cities, further exposing most parts of the country to unsafe deliveries and their delicate consequences of child deformities, infections, high maternal and child mortalities. The government must begin to consider the circumstances of birth as the most crucial aspect of a human being’s life because many deaths and deformities among children and women can be prevented by well-intentioned policies, which recognise antenatal and maternity services as crucial aspects of the nation’s health delivery.
Reports can be found of over-subscribed Caesarean lists, where priority is given to ‘first-time birthers’. Reports this summer noted that Tema Hospital struggled for bedspace for expectant mothers, with approximately 70% of women in labour giving birth to their children on the floor. Mothers who have just delivered have been reported to share beds with other mothers and their newly-delivered babies, with up to three mothers and their newborns sharing a bed at one time. This is not good enough.
A TV3 report recently exhibited similar dire issues at the Ridge hospital, where hoards of women on the edge of labour were sprawled across the ground and midwives told how a lack of beds meant many of these women would eventually deliver on the floor. There have been further reports of expectant mothers delivering babies on benches, and high rates of miscarriages and maternal deaths triggered by these stressful labour experiences.
A new multi-storey maternity block for the Tema hospital with many beds, labour suites and a newborn ICU, construction of which commenced under the Atta Mills administration, lies unfinished, work in seemingly perpetual limbo as the project lies abandoned for almost 4 years. With well-equipped facilities sparse in many areas of the country, travel is also a vital aspect. Notoriously bad roads which the government are slow to resolve, and places inaccessible to vehicles during rain seasons can make reaching required facilities in time dangerous and at times unachievable.
These issues, and the poor rates of maternal deaths, can be remedied if efforts were made to make it a priority for the women of Ghana to realise their right to a decent & dignified delivery. Ghana has made great strides in recent years in many areas. It has a lot to be proud of. However, Ghana’s maternity service and its attitude to deliveries is a black mark on what is otherwise a flagship story of the continent.
Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)