These deaths are unacceptably high and Ghana is unlikely to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG5) to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters to 185/100,000 live births by 2015.
Eighty per cent of maternal deaths are caused by direct obstetric causes such as haemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, obstructed labour and complications of unsafe abortion.
For every woman who dies from complications related to childbirth, approximately 20 more suffer injuries, infections and disabilities such as obstetric fistula that may often be untreated and ignored, and that could result in life-long pain and social and economic exclusion.
Women living in rural communities and women who are poor and with little or no education are the worst affected. Most of these complications could neither be predicted nor prevented.
However, all pregnant women are at risk and could develop complications at any time during pregnancy, delivery and after delivery.
Addressing maternal mortality has been particularly challenging for Ghana and most developing countries.
Government, with support from the United Nations, has put in place an MDG5 Acceleration Framework (MAF). The MAF recognises effective evidence-based interventions for achieving success. It also identifies three key priority intervention areas: improving access to and utilisation of family planning, skilled delivery and emergency obstetric and newborn care.
During the past decade, the United Nations has taken a holistic and rights based view of maternal health. The world body has been working to enhance the role of women, prevent child marriage, increase girls’ access to education, educate and abolish Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and support the development of adolescent life skills.
This in principle means that beyond the MDG5 Acceleration Framework, there are simple actions Ghana as a nation could take to save the lives of mothers.
Any mother-to-be, could learn how to avoid unplanned pregnancies, and if pregnant, women could learn the importance of receiving antenatal care, how to identify danger signs of pregnancy and labour, plan for emergency referrals, and choose safe birthing options.
Mothers in-law, should also encourage their sons to accompany their wives to doctor’s visits and be available and proactive during delivery.
Husband, should be supportive of their partners and help them by taking on some household chores to ease fatigue during pregnancy.
Moreover, companies and corporate organisations could take on the challenge of focusing their next corporate social investment to save the lives of mothers and their new born babies by funding the training of emergency care workers in rural hospitals.
Young innovators could develop some simple innovative ideas to save mothers during pregnancy and delivery.
The motor cycle ambulance in Sudan is an example of a simple resource efficient solution to a community challenge. In 2006, the Sudan Health Household Survey found that only 25 per cent of the country’s population had access to adequate health services, while more than 80 per cent of pregnant women delivered at home.
To solve this, an idea was born; a motorbike ambulance, fitted with an attached sidecar bed in which a pregnant woman could sit comfortably and be sent to a health facility to be attended to.
It has become a lifeline for Southern Sudan providing a fast, economical and efficient way to transport pregnant women to hospitals.
The biggest changes in history have been achieved through the small actions of several people. Together we could be part of the revolution to save mother’s lives, one mother at a time.
By Lydia Asamoah/ Susan Namongo Ngongi