The Upper East Regional Health Directorate in collaboration with UNICEF and other health-related Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the region have met to discuss strategies to continue the Mother and Baby Friendly Health Facility Initiative (MBFHI) after its expiration in September this year.
The MBFHI programme, which started implementation in 2015 is being piloted in the Kassena-Nankana West, the Bongo District, and the Bawku and Bolgatanga Municipalities aimed at reducing infant and neonatal deaths.
It also aims among other things to strengthen the leadership and collaboration for maternal and newborn health, breastfeeding as well as improve facility-based quality of care for both mothers and newborns.
The programme uses interventions such as advocacy and focus group discussions to ensure increased demand for ante-natal and post-natal services, early initiation to breastfeeding within 30 minutes after birth, exclusive breastfeeding and promoting basic new-born care among others.
The MBFHI initiative, financed by the UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with support from Ghana Government is being implemented by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and other health-related NGOs in the implementing regions.
The two-day meeting brought together stakeholders in the health sector, including doctors, nurses, donor partners, caregivers, advocates, and NGOs.
Present at the meeting included the UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Tamale, Margret Gwada; Health Specialist and Focal Person for MBFHI, Dr Priscilla Wobil; Regional Focal Person for the MBFHI, Rofina Asuru, and the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS), Dr Winfred Ofosu.
Dr Ofosu said all plans discussed at the meeting would be harmonised to ensure full implementation and sustainability of the programme to help improve newborn care and maternal health services in the region.
He commented all the implementing districts for coming up with new strategies to continue the project after its official expiration in September.
He expressed delight that the continuation of the project by the implementing districts would help to improve newborn and maternal healthcare services in the region.
Dr Ofosu, however, urged the donor partners to continue to support the programme even after its official expiration since the programme had contributed greatly to newborn and maternal healthcare in the region.
Executive Director of the Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment-Ghana (RISE-Ghana), one of the implementing NGOs, Mr Awal Ahmed Kariama, said “we have no excuse not to sustain the project activities and gains”, noting that “issues of newborn care and maternal health is a human rights issue”.
He gave an assurance that “we will work with community groups to ensure that our activities are captured in the medium term plans of the districts”.
He also said the NGOs would continue to collaborate with the media to strengthen accountability towards related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ms Gwada commended the Regional Health Directorate and the implementing NGOs for their active participation in the programme and also the meeting to discuss plans to continue the project after the expiration of the pilot phase in September 2018.
She said “traditionally, sustainability planning meetings are not held in most development programmes before they expire” by the implementing bodies, hence praising the stakeholders of the programme in the region for their initiative.
Dr Priscilla Wobil, who presented annual work plan ending September, this year, said the health directorate would focus on all the four outcomes of the project through the use of an integrated approach to ensure that babies are saved.
For his part, Dr Winfred Ofosu implored health workers in the region to continue to adopt best practices in their respective facilities, particularly when dealing with newborn babies.
He noted that it is only when health workers provide good services at the health facilities that would encourage people to patronise their services.