The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) has signed two agreements with the European Union (EU) for grants totalling €97 million to support decentralisation and maternal health.
A total of €52 million of the grant will go into fighting maternal mortality to help the country achieve Millennium Development Goal Five (MDG 5).
Currently, 350 women die out of every 100,000 live births but the Ministry of Health (MoH) wants to reduce this to 185 deaths per 100,000 births.
The other part of the grant, totalling €45 million, will be channelled into strengthening decentralisation and local government.
The funds are part of the €402 million grant the EU is offering the country between 2008 and 2013 to support transport connectivity, governance and decentralisation and general budgetary support.
The Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, who signed the agreement on behalf of Ghana, said the grant would enable the country to reduce maternal mortality by two-thirds in order to achieve MDG 5.
The grant, he said, would go into training more midwives and upgrading the capacity of existing ones to make their services available as widely as possible.
Dr Duffuor said the grant would also be used to train community health nurses in midwifery and procure equipment, build more health facilities and provide access.
On local government, he said the funds would be used to consolidate the gains made under the Ghana Decentralisation Support Programme (GDSP) through the creation of the Local Government Service, the strengthening of the Institute of Local Government Studies and the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee which together collaborate to implement decentralisation activities and policies.
“The objective of the second programme is to contribute to the improvement of performance and quality of service delivery, with particular focus on the effective provision of basic services such as education, health, water and sanitation,” he stated.
Dr Duffuor expressed the hope that the funds would help the government improve the overall living standards of the people.
The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, expressed delight at the grant, particularly so as the EU had, over the years, partnered the country to improve its decentralisation and local governance.
He said last year the EU supported the first phase of the GDSP with €5 million.
He said some of the initiatives started to deepen decentralisation in the country included the preparation of a composite budget last year which was one of the best public financial management systems.
“We want to assure the EU and, indeed, all our development partners that Ghana is committed to decentralisation and we will use the resources prudently for the benefit of our people,” he said.
The Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Ministry of Health, Dr Afisah Zakaria, explained that the ministry had prepared a comprehensive action plan to ensure that maternal mortality was reduced drastically.
The EU Development Commissioner, Mr Andris Piebalgs, who was on a three-day duty tour of Ghana, signed the agreement on behalf of the EU and commended Ghana for the progress it had made in decentralisation and its commitment to reduce maternal mortality by more than half.
“Our development co-operation with Ghana has been very fruitful over the years. This support is not a loan but a grant and budget support in response to the government’s request to meet a need,” he said.
He disclosed that the EU had so far mobilised €1 billion to support its African partners to achieve the MDGs, saying because requests were larger than the fund, the EU would work with the partners to prioritise the projects to finance.
Story: Samuel Doe Ablordeppey