Nurse Haajia Ayishatu Yakubu with a premature baby at Suntreso Hospital's Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) in Kumasi
For every 1000 babies born alive in Ghana, 48 are expected to die. Five years ago, that number would have been far higher but infant mortality rate in the country has been steadily dropping since 2006.
Thanks to improvements in neo-natal care and immunization coverage, Ghana’s newborns now face a better chance of survival. Kumasi in particular, now has three hospitals that are equipped with a neo-natal care unit.
According to Dr. Kwesi Awudzi, Director of Health for the Ashanti Region, pregnant women in Ghana often work throughout the year regardless of their stage in pregnancy. The strain of hard labour often causes complications for mothers, including premature births.
Prior to 2009, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) was the only place equipped to treat premature births. With the help Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV), Alliance Bank and the Millennium City Innitiative (MCI), there are now neo-natal care units at two other hospitals in the city – Suntreso Hospital and Kyarapatere Hospital.
According to Suntreso Hospital’s Mother and Baby Unit’s head nurse Haajia Ayishatu Yakubu, this caused an on-going patient congestion at KATH and babies often had to sleep two to a cot. The opening of the two new units in 2009 has substantially improved the situation; aside from new cases, Suntreso and Kyarapatere Hospital regularly receive babies in critical condition that KATH was unable to treat.
Patients in the Kangaroo Mother Care therapy room at Suntreso Hospital's Mother and Baby Unit in Kumasi
During the recent end-of-pilot celebration of the Neo-natal Survival Project at Suntreso Hospital, I was shown around the hospital’s Mother and Baby unit. The beds were amply spaced from one another and only half were occupied. Nurse Yakubu said the unit does not use incubators; instead, they employ the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMA) method to treat premature babies. In a room separate from the main ward, mothers are able to recuperate with their babies strapped to their chests to provide direct and continuous skin-to-skin contact which will encourage and support the babies’ growth.
Nurse Yakubu said there have only been two deaths since the unit opened two years ago. Both cases involve babies in critical condition that were transferred from KATH.
With a project yielding such substantial results, Ghana’s health sector seems set to achieve its goal of reducing infant mortality by 2015. The next challenge facing the project would be to ensure its sustainability.