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Campaign to reduce maternal deaths launched in Upper East

BY: Gilbert Mawuli Agbey
Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, speaking at the launch
Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, speaking at the launch

A campaign dubbed “zero tolerance for maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion” has been launched in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region.

The launch was undertaken with a call for extensive and strategic policies and programmes to reduce the country’s high maternal morbidity and mortality, and was on the theme “stop preventable maternal deaths and disabilities due to unsafe abortion”.

The Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, who made the call, said even though the law in Ghana permitted abortion under certain circumstances, access to safe abortion services remained a huge challenge.”

“Despite the progress made in improving access to safe and affordable services by expanding providers in comprehensive abortion care services, access to abortion services is still a challenge,” he noted.

He said “access to maternal health services is still limited, particularly for the majority of the population who live in urban slums and rural communities,” noting, “there remains a sizeable unmet need for family planning services, a low contraceptive prevalence rate, high rate of unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion associated with high mortality rate.”

In 2019, the region recorded 31 maternal deaths, which increased slightly to 36 in 2020 and further increased to 43 in 2021.

Figures

Speaking at the launch of the campaign aimed at reducing maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion in the region, last Tuesday, Dr Dzotsi said “unsafe abortion is contributing significantly to maternal mortality with its complications accounting for 9.2 per cent of direct maternal deaths as contained in Ghana Health Service’s 2019 report.”

He noted that almost one out of six women in the reproductive age in Ghana had had unsafe abortion, with almost one out of three women in rural areas engaging in abortion using illegal and non-methodical methods.

Touching on the figures in the region, he indicated that complications of unsafe abortion accounted for three per cent of direct maternal mortality between 2019 and 2021, saying “about 25 cases of post-abortion complications as well as 647 cases of induced abortions were reported to health facilities across the region”.

Media’s role

He called on the media to play a pivotal role in the execution of the campaign so as to reduce maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion in the region to the barest minimum.

“We urge media practitioners to become advocates and ambassadors of the campaign so as to save the lives of women who die in an attempt to get rid of pregnancies through illegal and unsafe methods,” he said.

He said “it is very important for all stakeholders to collaborate effectively towards tackling the issue of maternal deaths to save the lives of pregnant women.”

Abortion services

Responding to a question on the high cost of abortion services in health facilities, the Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Josephat Nyuzaghl, said there were ongoing discussions at the national level to agree on a uniform cost to be charged nationwide.

He noted that the unavailability of a uniform cost for abortion services at health facilities might be a reason why some women opted for illegal and unsafe methods leading to complications and maternal deaths.

He said “the ultimate strategy to help address the financial barrier to abortion services is the inclusion of comprehensive abortion services into the minimum package of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).