The initiative of the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, of mobilising local resources of about 2.5 million dollars to build a Mother-and-Baby Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, has been applauded at the 20th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organisation of Africa First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
She said the mobilisation of domestic fund for the project was due to the fact that external funds to help address HIV and AIDS issues and programmes were dwindling.
Mrs Akufo-Addo, whose speech was interspersed with applauses from the gathering, was addressing other First Ladies and the Partners of OAFLA, including the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), at the assembly.
The First Lady said as the Government of Ghana continued to work on a policy initiative on Ghana beyond aid, she chose that new direction and raised the funds within five months through a national campaign to construct a Mother-and-Baby Unit at one of the biggest regional hospitals in the country.
“This state-of-the-art facility will also contribute to the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and ultimately reduce maternal and child mortality,” she noted.
She mentioned that soon after becoming the First Lady in January 2017, she joined the OAFLA and became the Premier Ambassador of Ghana for HIV Advocacy, Elimination of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission, Keeping Mothers Alive and the Empowerment of Young Women and Adolescent Girls for Ghana.
“Within a year as First Lady, I have created healthy productive working relations with the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) which coordinates all HIV activities in the country. Consequently, we have undertaken a number of activities,” she said.
She revealed that Ghana had, through the GAC, set up a team to implement a two-year OAFLA Ghana Chapter Plan aligned to the OAFLA Strategic Plan 2014-2018.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said Ghana had also implemented the “Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Reproductive Health Campaign”, pointing out that one of her most fulfilling moments was when she met with HIV positive mothers as part of her advocacy for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Mrs Akufo-Addo indicated that in terms of access to services, Ghana had more than 2,700 facilities where pregnant women could receive the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services.
“We have had significant success as a result. Nonetheless, we in Ghana realise we need to do more to ensure zero infection,” she explained.
She said in August last year, and with support from a philanthropist, she organised the “Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Reproductive Health Campaign” in the Volta Region, and added that the Volta Region was currently the region with the highest burden of HIV.
“I personally went through counselling and testing to encourage others to do so.
We were able to reach about 4,500 community members, with services ranging from distribution of condoms, information and education and HIV and health screening,” She indicated.
“I also engaged with various stakeholders who all resolved to ensure that no baby is born HIV positive” the First Lady noted noted.
The 20th Ordinary General Assembly of the OAFLA held within the side-lines of the African Union (AU) Summit ongoing in Addis Ababa, opened on Saturday, January 27 and ended on Monday, January 29.
It has the theme: “Transforming Africa through Prioritising Children, Adolescents and Mothers in the Fight against HIV.”
Members of OAFLA also used the occasion to launch a new campaign dubbed: “Free to Shine” which is aimed at directing a new path of commitment towards the prevention of HIV infections among children, adolescents and mothers.
In a related development, Mrs Akufo-Addo, on Sunday, January 28, joined her counterparts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to endorse a communiqué that enjoins countries to do more to reduce HIV and AIDS in Africa.
This was held in a closed session as part of the 20th Ordinary General Assembly of the OAFLA ongoing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The meeting follows an open session held the previous day and attended by representatives of the five regional blocks; Western, Eastern, Southern, Northern and Central Africa, which enabled the first ladies to adopt the minutes of the 19th Ordinary Session held in July last year.
The biannual assembly is held in January and July of every year under the chairmanship of the OAFLA president.