About 611 women died at birth at the Upper East Regional Hospital in 2017. This was more than 4 times the number that died in 2016.
Medics at the hospital blame this mainly on the lack of health facilities to handle the increasing number of referral cases that the hospital receives.
“We are doing our best but the pressure that comes to this hospital is too much. We get cases referred here from all over the region. Even cases from the northern region that reach here in bad conditions,” said Derick Owusu Boateng, Health Information Officer at the hospital.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which has been investing heavily in maternal and infant health especially in the three regions of northern Ghana, wants government to invest more than it is doing now to build more health centers.
UNICEF Country Chief, Ann-Claire Duffet who has been touring projects supported by the UN body in the northern and Upper East Regions said, the pressure on the hospital means more needs to be done to contain the numbers that come in.
“We need to help these hospitals but also many others because I’ve been travelling to other parts of Ghana and it’s quite striking to see the need for additional neonatal care units, more equipment, more training for the staff,” she said.
UNICEF in Ghana, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is investing 2.9 million dollars between 2015 and 2020 to better maternal health systems for the benefit of locals in the Upper East region.
The Upper East region, already one of the country’s poorest, has a myriad of challenges including a huge infrastructural deficit which makes it impossible for healthcare to reach the country’s most vulnerable.
Ghana has made progress investing in health care yet has stagnated in reducing maternal mortality. According to UN estimates, in 2013, when the country had an estimated population of over 25.9 million, 3,100 women died for reasons related to pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal mortality has fallen, from 760 to 380 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2013, and was expected to fall further, to 358 per 100,000 live births by 2015. However, this is still higher than the MDG 5 target of 190 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
“This region is one of the areas that has challenges with maternal health but because of the intervention of UNICEF, change is happening,” Dr Winfred Ofosu, Director of Health in the region.
Under the project, four districts; Bongo, Bawku, Bolgatanga and Kassena-Nankana West are being supported through their major hospitals.
“We have increased advocacy on the quality of care for new-borns. There’s been a lot of policy and guideline documents on how to improve survival and also established new-born care units in these three hospitals. Through these initiatives, neonatal deaths have fallen by about 40 per cent between 2017 and 2018”, said Dr Pricilla Wobil, Health and Nutrition Specialist.