|© UNICEF Angola/2008|
|Fernanda Ngueve and her children visit a UNICEF-supported outreach team in Angola that arrives monthly with vaccines, essential medicines, mosquito nets and advice on child and maternal health.|
ANDULO, Angola, 1 August 2008 – In order to reach the nearest hospital and access prenatal care, Fernanda Ngueve would have had to walk 7 km to Andulo while carrying both her babies. So, like many women in her village, the 38-year-old expectant mother decided to forego her routine health consultations rather than make the arduous hike.
Because of the lack of proper health care, her first child died a week after birth. The baby had contracted neonatal tetanus – a disease that could have easily been prevented with three doses of a vaccine during her pregnancy.
Home births without the assistance of trained health workers are a common practice in Angola. Now, thanks to the efforts of Angola’s Ministry of Health, many women can get routine health services close to where they live.
Working with the health authorities, UNICEF is supporting the government in 5 out of Angola’s 18 provinces: Bie, Moxico, Huila, Cunene and Luanda. The support includes technical, financial and educational assistance, as well as monitoring visits to health facilities.
Through the new programme, expectant mothers are being offered an integrated package of care at their local health centres or through outreach services.
Included in the package are intermittent preventive treatment for malaria, supplementation of iron and folic acid, de-worming, vaccination against tetanus and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV.
To help mothers provide the best care for their new babies, health workers encourage them to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. The mothers are given advice on danger signs that should prompt them to seek medical attention for their babies.
Newborns are also immunized against tuberculosis and polio.
Family planning methods and family care practices such as good hygiene are also stressed. All women leave the prenatal consultations with an insecticide-treated bed net so they can protect themselves and their children against malaria.
Increasing women's prospects
Ms. Ngueve is among many Angolan women who have experienced the tragedy of losing a child. But she now knows that once a month, an outreach team of health workers will arrive with vaccines, essential medicines, mosquito nets and advice on how to care for herself and her children.
The government-backed, UNICEF-supported programme aims to deliver high-impact, low-cost primary health services to women like Ms. Ngueve, who otherwise would not have access to prenatal or antenatal care. This programme of revitalized health services, which began in 2006, will greatly increase women’s prospects for safe pregnancy and healthy children in Angola.