— As they visit counties to ascertain gains, challenges
In its quest to reduce maternal and neonatal death in the country, the Ministry of Health (MoH) through the Family Health Division (FHD) and the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), along with the World Health Organization (WHO), has concluded a 6-day engagement mission with county health authorities to assess gains and challenges in the health system before and during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The joint MOH/WHO assessment engagement on Maternal Newborn Death and Sexual Reproduction (MNDSR), was held from July 7 thru 31, 2020 in Grand Bassa, River Cess, and Grand Cape Mount counties, with the main focus on immunization, maternal mortality, and adolescent health. Health authorities had told this paper earlier that immunization has declined amid the pandemic, as many people were forced to be relocated to other places where they could not have access to vaccines.
Madam Bentoe Zoogley Tehoungue, Director of the Family Health Division of MoH and lead person on the mission to the counties, said that given the many challenges in the country’s health sector, there is a need to always carry out such an exercise, most especially in the areas of immunization and maternal, neonatal and adolescent health, to inform the national government and partners as to what is happening in the health sector at the county level and the necessary intervention that is needed.
According to Madam Tehougue, as part of the Family Health Division task to make sure that women, children, and adolescents are given quality health services in the country with support from partners, the need for the mission to assess the gains and challenges in MNDSR per county cannot be over-emphasized.
She disclosed that in times past, FHD and partners had been working with various county health teams to ensure that each county has a maternal waiting home where pregnant women can be taken seven days to delivery, to avoid delays that can sometimes lead to maternal and neonatal death. They had also enforced the need for youth centers for adolescents, especially girls, for the collection of contraceptives to avoid teenage pregnancy.
Madam Tehougue said that her division has also been collaborating with county health teams across the country to review maternal and newborn death of which, she said, adolescents are significant contributors.
She admonished the presence of community members in the meeting, noting that studies have shown that adolescents accessing health facilities for contraceptives for the prevention of teenage pregnancy is hindered by the parents.
According to her, those decisions by the parents have over time had a serious negative impact on young girls who are being stopped from taking contraceptives, but still have sex and are doing abortions; adding that many of them die, some left with damaged uteruses, while others have critical health problems for life.
During the meetings, the county health officials and other stakeholders said the engagement is a laudable one and that it will help health authorities in the counties to correct their weaknesses and be able to meet up to the health needs of the people in time.
As the discussions went on and presentations were made, various county health authorities said that since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, the immunization aspect of the routine health services has not been carried out due to fear of people visiting health facilities and falsehood of spreading the virus through vaccines and other injections by health workers.
Dr. Musu Duawgo, WHO representative on the mission during the meetings, told attendees that health is not just the Ministry of Health’s responsibility but a multi-sectoral issue and involves the contribution of all.
According to Dr. Duawgo, part of the mission is to know what sector is involved in the healthcare delivery at the county level and its role in mitigating the challenges, most especially in the areas of Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescence Health (RMNCAH) and nutrition during COVID-19.
Dr. Duawgo said the team assessed the coordination between those sectors and the county health teams in providing quality healthcare to the people, something she said exists but needs to be strengthened.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Family Health Division (FHD), Madam Tehoungue, applauded each county for welcoming the team for such mission, assuring them that everything that has been discussed will be put forth before national stakeholders and partners for the necessary interventions.
In the meantime, she encouraged doctors and nurses who have made sacrifices to go in the counties and provide healthcare and to continue doing what they have been called to do and observe every health protocol during these times of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).