Speaking to senators on progress in the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 recently, Acting-Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Davies Dhlakama, said increasing the number of midwifery training schools would help reduce maternal deaths.
“Expectations are that the ministry trains 700 more midwives yearly to curb the dwindled human resource base due to staff attrition and ensure that pregnant mothers receive effective care and treatment whenever they visit a health institution,” he said.
Dhlakama said the ministry had, through the department of reproductive health, implemented various life-saving interventions aimed at reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
He said the shortage of midwives was a major challenge that contributed to the country’s high maternal mortality rates.
“Skilled attendance at delivery declined from 73% in 1999 to 68% in 2009, institutional delivery has remained constant at around 69% for the past decade and home deliveries were 28% in 2007,” said Dhlakama.
“Midwives are marketable and their services are wanted everywhere. There is need to ensure that they are given enough incentives to motivate them if the country is to retain their services.”
The health ministry is also capacitating health workers through training to enable them to provide emergency obstetric and neonatal care as well as perform manual vacuum aspirations, implant insertions and to test for syphilis and cervical cancer.
“More than 200 health workers have been trained since 2010 with at least two health workers per every secondary level health facility benefiting from this programme,” he said.
“A total of 67 midwives and doctors were trained in manual vacuum aspirations as provincial trainers and plans are underway to increase the number of trainees and procure more manual vacuum aspiration kits.”
A study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in 2007 established that 50% of maternal deaths were due to preventable factors such as delay in seeking health care, reaching care and in receiving effective treatment.