The health of our citizenry is a key economic investment that should cement our nation’s goal of being a prosperous middle-income status by 2030, says Health Minister Sylvia Masebo.
The health minister who was the guest of Honour at the Annual General Meeting and Scientific Congress for the Zambia Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians [ZAGO] – expressed optimism at government’s commitment to strengthening health systems in the country.
ZAGO held its AGM and Scientific Congress on 25th and 26th November, 2022 under the theme: “Ending preventable maternal and perinatal deaths by 2030: How do we effectively implement known strategies.”
“The New Dawn government under the leadership of Mr Hakainde Hichilema, recognizes the importance of good health care for our people. This is premised on the understanding that good health is an important factor of economic production, [of which] reproductive health is one such factor,” explains Honourable Masebo in a statement delivered by the Permanent Secretary for Technical Services, Professor Lackson Kasonka. “This theme is extremely important as it offers each one of us an opportunity to critically look at interventions that need to be applied for accelerated reduction of both maternal and perinatal mortality. This theme is in line with our target of achieving less than 70 per 100,000 maternal deaths by 2030.”
Ms. Masebo notes that it is possible to further bring down maternal and perinatal deaths in the country by 2030.
“It is in this vein that the Ministry of Health’s National Health Strategic Plan [for] 2022-2026, focuses on emergency obstetrical and neonatal care, strengthening maternal and neonatal referral system, scaling up maternal and perinatal death surveillance and response, rolling out the World Health Organization 2016 Antenatal care recommendations and providing skilled attendant at birth, elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, family planning with emphasis on long-acting reversible methods, as well as screening for cervical cancer,” she explains. “Although current evidence shows a reduction of maternal deaths of 60% over the last two decades, from 2002, according to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS), which shows a drop from 729/100,000 to 278/100,000 per live births, this figure still remains unacceptably high.”
“Let me state that the notable top four causes of maternal deaths include hemorrhage, sepsis, hypertension and unsafe abortions. Recent evidence shows that 90% of all maternal deaths occur in health facilities – meaning that key interventions are within our control. Further, neonatal and perinatal mortality rates still remain unacceptably high. Perinatal mortality was 34/1000 pregnancies in 2018, while neonatal mortality was 27/1000 live births, showing an increase from 24/1000 live births in 2014. The commonest causes of neonatal mortality include prematurity, sepsis and birth asphyxia.”
She urges ZAGO to continue providing leadership in tackling maternal and perinatal mortality, and also taking the lead in offering countrywide on-site mentorship to the recently employed health workers.
“You are urged to help set up obstetrics intensive care units in other teaching hospitals apart from the University Teaching Hospitals [UTH], women & new born hospital in order to manage critical cases. I wish to commend the leadership role by ZAGO and that of the Midwives Association of Zambia [MAZ] in the national maternal and perinatal death surveillance and response team, whose function among others is to critically analyse maternal and perinatal deaths. The team designs solutions to halt maternal and perinatal deaths,” acknowledges Ms. Masebo. “I further wish to thank ZAGO and the Midwife Association of Zambia for the input in the now launched national maternal & neonatal referral guidelines.”