SWAKOPMUND - Health minister Kalumbi Shangula says maternal, stillbirth, and neonatal deaths are still a concern despite progress being made to prevent them.
He said the 2022 Report on maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2021, commissioned by the ministry, reveals that a total of 145 maternal deaths were reported.
Speaking at the official opening of the national conference on basic and advanced neonatal care in Swakopmund last week, the minister indicated the possibility of underreporting in these cases.
“Also, a total of 1 066 stillbirths and 1 069 neonatal deaths were reported in the 2022 report. Meanwhile, on the overall Health Information System,
4 406 stillbirths and 2 572 neonatal deaths were captured, with 289 near misses also reported,” the minister explained.
According to the minister, the report indicates that challenges such as a lack of adequate equipment and consumables played a contributory role in adverse health outcomes recorded.
Hence, he said Namibia cannot over-emphasise the need for all healthcare facilities to be appropriately equipped with essential medicines, blood products, supplies, and equipment to enable staff to provide quality care to women and reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.
“The ministry will continue to address identified challenges affecting our national health system, and for this reason, the ministry compiled a cost plan aimed at strengthening the public health system,” Shangula said.
The minister also pointed out that in every pregnancy, there is a potential risk of complications, adding that it is not always possible to determine which pregnant woman will develop complications.
Shangula added that 70% of women who develop complications, and their newborns can be saved if they receive timely, quality obstetric care.
Hence, he said skilled assistance before and during labour, delivery, and the postpartum period is critical for the reduction of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
“Any neonatal or maternal death is one death too many. For this reason, maternal, stillbirth, and neonatal deaths are of major concern for the ministry and government,” he said.
According to Shangula, to address and reduce neonatal and maternal deaths, the government crafted a plan titled “Every Newborn Action Plan,” which has specific targets and objectives to reduce maternal mortality.
He explained that by using the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2013 as the frame of reference, the plan aimed to reduce maternal deaths from 385 to at least 200 per 100 000 live births by 2018 and to 50 by 2035. Newborn mortality was to be reduced from 20 to 10 per 1 000 live births by 2018.
“While progress has been made, these targets have not been fully met, and more needs to be done if Namibia is to reach these targets by 2050. In this context, this seminar can play an important role in helping us to unpack the challenges and propose solutions and practical interventions that can bring tangible solutions in the short, medium, and long term to the challenges we face,” he said.
Shangula urged all stakeholders to bring their individual and collective wisdom to bear and assist the public healthcare system in accelerating action towards improving the provision of and access to quality maternal and neonatal services for all mothers and babies who need them.