By Sola Ogundipe
NIGERIA and eight other countries have committed to halving maternal and newborn deaths in health facilities within the next 5 years. The other countries are Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda – committed to halving preventable deaths of pregnant women and newborns in their health facilities.
According to UNICEF, in Nigeria, 145 women die daily, as well as about 2,300 under-five year olds, representing a quarter of the total number of deaths of children under-five.
In a statement released February 14, the World Health Organisation, WHO, said by working to improve the quality of care mothers and babies received in their health facilities, the countries will work through a new Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn in conjunction with UNICEF and other partners.
This Network aims to strengthen national efforts to end preventable deaths by 2030, as envisioned by the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. Countries will do that for example, by strengthening capacity and motivation of health professional to plan and manage quality improvement, improving data collection and increasing access to medicines, supplies, equipment and clean water.
According to Director, WHO Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, Dr Anthony Costello, “Every mother and infant deserves to receive the highest quality of care when they access health facilities in their communities.”
Through a global learning platform, the Quality of Care Network will build a community of health practitioners from the facility level and up to develop evidence-based, yet context-specific, strategies to improve quality of care, harvest implementation ideas, and collect information and experiences about what is working.
The nine countries in the Network have committed to identifying the actions they will take to improve quality of care and will work with partners to deliver the vision of quality that encompasses values of equity and dignity.
To achieve this, governments will build and strengthen their national institutions, identify quality of care focal points at all levels of the health system, accelerate and sustain the implementation of quality-of-care improvement packages for mothers, newborns and children, and work with all groups involved to facilitate learning, knowledge sharing and accountability.
Every year, worldwide, 303 000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Most of these deaths could be prevented with quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.
Under WHO standards, the health facilities should have competent and motivated health professionals and the availability of essential resources, such as clean water, medicines, equipment, supplies and proper waste management. They also need functional referral systems between levels of care, access to functioning ambulances for emergency transportation, and information systems that collect adequate patient records, register births and deaths, and facilitate routine audits.