Health News of 2014-01-23

World Vision Ghana calls for increase in health budget

World Vision Ghana, a child-centered Christian humanitarian aid organization, has urged government to increase funding for the health sector in accordance with the Abuja Declaration.

The National Director of World Vision Ghana, Hubert Charles, said in spite of government's pledge to spend 15 per cent of its national budget on health, government expenditure on health was still around 12 per cent of its total expenditure.

Mr Charles who was briefing the Media on World Vision's 'Child Health Now Campaign' yet to be launched, said per capita expenditure on health was only 325 dollars while out-of-pocket expenditure was 27 per cent of total health expenditure.

He stressed the need for all partners to collaborate to work towards scaling up of health interventions to ensure quality maternal and child health in the country.

He said this would ensure the scaling up of health interventions including funding for the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Four, Five and Six, by the year 2015.

The National Director said World Vision recognizes the gaps that exist within the healthcare delivery system and intends to support in fixing some of the challenges through the 'Child Health Now Campaign' to particularly assist those that affect women and children in rural communities.

He, therefore, called for enhanced efforts to reduce morbidity and mortality from preventable infections and under nutrition among mothers, new-borns and children under five years.

Mr Charles said World Vision wants the government to speed up interventions to improve the quality and accessibility of health services, with a particular focus on poor and marginalized communities.

This, he said, calls for the placement of equitable access to health services on the agenda of District Management Teams to address major challenges of inadequate human resources.

According to him, World Vision believes that this would also address the human resource gaps in rural health facilities, including improving incentive packages to attract personnel, and therefore advised government to reform the National Health Insurance Scheme financing system to ensure that all, especially the poor, could afford insurance and take action to ensure accountability, efficiency and sustainability of the system.

He said this calls for the prioritization of proven interventions to improve nutrition in the national health and development agendas, and make them available to all children and mothers, particularly the most vulnerable.

He also urged government to increase funding and ensure the rational use of funding for essential drugs, promote local production of essential drugs in line with the Abuja Declaration and improve co-ordination of procurement to prevent stock outs.

The National Director urged government to ensure the implementation of the child health policy on the effective prevention and treatment of pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, including antibiotics that could be administered at the community level.

Mr Charles said the organization also believes that increasing the capacity of communities to take first-line critical actions was crucial to promote and protect the health of children, women and the most vulnerable, and urged government to intensify efforts towards the achievement of these objectives.

He said World Vision intends to partner with other organizations to expand education for families and communities on good nutrition and health practices, to improve health-seeking behaviour, empower families and communities to demand quality and effective health service delivery.

“We also seek to support effective community monitoring systems to identify signs of faltering growth in children under five and work with care givers to implement corrective actions,” he said.

Mr Micah Olad, National Child Health Project Co-cordinator of World Vision Ghana explained that the Organization’s global initiatives to promote child and maternal nutrition had been embodied in its Child Health Now campaign.

The campaign, he said, was part of efforts aimed at achieving a two-thirds reduction in child mortality figures by the year 2015, which was in line with the MDG Four.

He indicated that although Ghana had made some improvement in child and maternal health over the last two decades, the progress had been relatively slow because mothers and children were still dying from preventable causes.

He enumerated some of the causes of maternal mortality as haemorrhage and hypertension, most of which could be prevented through relatively inexpensive and proven measures.

Mr Olad further indicated that children less than five years were also dying from neonatal causes such as pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea, yet only half of these children with suspected cases of pneumonia were taken to the appropriate healthcare providers, and less than a quarter receive antibiotics.

According to him, statistics from the recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey show that under-five mortality rates decreased from 121 deaths per every 1,000 live births in 1990, to 78 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 while infant and neonatal mortality rates also declined by a similar margin, yet there were still large Regional disparities.

He recalled that in 2008, the rate for the entire nation was 80 deaths per 1,000, however, the Central, Northern and Upper West Regions experienced much higher rates with 108, 137 and 142 deaths per every 1,000 live births, respectively.

“Almost one-third of children under five years old are stunted and one in eight new-borns are born with a low birthweight. The presence of stunting has remained fairly consistent over the past decade,” he said.

It is estimated that about 40 per cent of deaths among children less than five years old were either directly or indirectly due to under nutrition.

The maternal mortality ratio on the other hand improved from 580 deaths per every 100,000 births in 1990 to 350 deaths in 2010 owing to the fact that 57 per cent of births were assisted by a skilled attendant, “however this number is distorted by the massive inequalities between urban and rural areas and the richest and poorest households, he said.

Mr Olad noted that any form of intervention in the area of access calls for collective efforts by all partners and stakeholders, including the Media, to enhance public education to ensure attitudinal change.

Source: GNA
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