…Urges the Association to help set up obstetrics intensive care units in other teaching hospitals
What can be described as exceptional efforts to the development and accelerating quality health service delivery to the Zambian people, the Ministry of Health has commended the critical role the Zambia Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (ZAGO) is playing in contributing to the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality in the country.
ZAGO, a professional body representing doctors specialized in Maternal and Newborn health in the country has over the years employed various strategies to further reduce maternal mortality through promotion of high quality Sexual Reproductive Health services for women and adolescents.
At its annual Gala held on September 9, 2022 at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for technical services Professor Lackson Kasonka commended ZAGO’s professional contributions and urged the Association to escalate its efforts of saving lives of women and newborns.
“This gala brings us together to share thoughts on maternal and newborn health, a subject that is so critical to the development of humanity. I am cautious that as we articulate this subject, we all share evidence-based views on how best our country can avoid preventable maternal deaths by the year 2030. This is important not only to saving lives of our women and newborns, but also as a fundamental pillar for national development,” the Permanent Secretary notes.
He stresses the challenges faced in the provision of quality obstetric and neonatal care countrywide.
“There are various causes of maternal deaths in our country, which include: excessive bleeding before, during and after childbirth; infections, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and complications due to unsafe abortions among others. For perinatal/neonatal deaths, the commonest causes include birth asphyxia, prematurity and infections,” he explains, while acknowledging that the government is aware of the various interventions partner organisations like ZAGO are making to bring down maternal and neonatal mortality.
It is these interventions, the Permanent Secretary continues, that have led to the reduction of maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to the current 278/100,000live births from 398/100,000 for 2013/2014 – a figure, Prof Kasonka describes as still unacceptably high considering that 90 percent of the preventable causes (hemorrhage, infection, hypertension and unsafe abortions among others), “of maternal deaths happen in our health centres, meaning that the key interventions, really are within our control.”
He expresses optimism at the reduction of neonatal mortality ratio, from 27/1000 live births in 2013/14 to 24/1000 live births, which major causes “being prematurity, sepsis and asphyxia and again these causes are largely preventable.”
The Permanent Secretary informs ZAGO that his ministry appreciates the leadership role of the Association in the recently established National Maternal Perinatal Death Surveillance (NMPDS) and response team whose function among others is to critically analyse maternal and perinatal deaths and offer solutions to halt maternal deaths.
“I would also like to thank ZAGO for the recently launched Referral Guidelines that will lead to improved referral system with subsequently improved maternal and newborn survival. [In view of this], we expect ZAGO to help set up obstetrics intensive care units in other teaching hospitals apart from the University Teaching Hospitals (UTH), women & newborn hospital to manage critical cases,” emphasizes Prof. Kasonka.
And ZAGO President Dr Swebby Macha assures the Government through Ministry of Health of the Association’s resolve to continue employing key strategies aimed at saving lives of women and newborn.
“To demonstrate our strategic resolve to saving lives of women and newborns, and ensuring that no woman dies while giving birth, and subsequently further bring down maternal deaths, we have developed key programmes around which our discussion this evening will be premised and possibly be supported, and this include, Surgical Skills Training Transfer in rural district health centres; Emergency Obstetrics and Neonatal Care (EMONC); Maternal Prenatal Surveillance Training; and Enhanced Uptake of Antenatal Care, Dr Macha explains.
He says once supported and implemented, the four critical health thematic areas would lead to drastic reduction not only for maternal and neonatal mortality, but also an improvement in quality of health services as well as behavioural change in health service seeking among majority Zambians, especially in rural areas.
The annual Gala brought together health various institutions including UN agencies, Embassies, Banks, Mines, business corporations and health professional bodies to share views and experiences on how best Zambia can possibly attain the much anticipated zero maternal death by 2030. The Gala further provided an opportunity for ZAGO to seek support and funding for its projects from both local and international institutions.