Ghana launches a national Newborn Health Strategy and Action Plan to speed up the reduction of new born deaths
By E. Offeibea Baddoo
ACCRA, Ghana, 5 August 2014 – In Ghana a newborn dies every 15 minutes and about 30,000 die annually. Much more, the past ten years have witnessed a stagnation in the reduction of newborn deaths. At an under-five mortality rate of 82 deaths per 1000 live births, Ghana is not likely to meet the MDG 4 target of 41 deaths per 1000 live births by the year 2015.
Recognising that neonatal mortality rates in Ghana remain unacceptably high, the Ministry of Health has developed and launched a Ghana National Newborn Health Strategy and Action Plan for 2014-2018. The integrated and comprehensive plan mimics the Global Every Newborn Action Plan in its objectives and targets to collaborate with stakeholders of varied backgrounds in the fight against neonatal deaths. Following the national launch on July 30, 2014, an annual newborn stakeholders meeting was held to build consensus on operationalizing the national newborn strategy.
At the launch, personalities of high standing in the Ghanaian society were introduced as Champions for newborn health. Participants at the launch included Ministers of State, Parliamentarians, members of civil society, a popular artiste, religious leaders and people from the corporate world. Others came from the Donor community. The Executives of various standing, openly pledged their commitment to use their platforms to advocate for the cause of Ghana’s most vulnerable youngest citizens, the newborns.
In Ghana, even though harmful cultural practices contribute to the causes of death among the newborn, infections are the largest culprit - about 31 percent - of death in newborns. Pre-term and low birth weight, birth complication including asphyxia are the other leading causes of newborn deaths.
Interestingly, Ghana’s situation, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2011, suggests that the number of newborn deaths do not vary much across socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. These indicators therefore suggest that the quality of care babies receive in the first few hours to few days of life contribute to their demise.
The document launched is a roadmap that seeks to dramatically reduce by five percent annually, the number of babies who die in the neonatal period. It aims at reaching by 2018, a neonatal mortality rate of 21 per 1000 live births from the current 32 per 1000 live births. The action plan is also clear about the goal of reducing institutional neonatal mortality by at least 35 percent in the next five years.
UNICEF contributed technically to the development of the national strategy and has renewed its promise to the Government of Ghana to ensure that the strategy will be implemented to scale.