Mothers and babies in the country die each year because pregnant mothers do not visit health facilities to receive professional care and have supervised deliveries.
A graduation of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Mt Hagen last week was told that of all the babies born in the country only 60% had supervised deliveries and that it is far more likely (around 50%) of non-supervised deliveries to result in infant death.
The graduation of the CHWs who had undergone upskilling training in Emergency Maternal and Newborn Care was told that a baby had 60 seconds after birth to live if resuscitation was required. Mothers were also at risk of excessive bleeding, therefore, high level skills were required in supervising deliveries.
Professor Glen Mola, the Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of PNG’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences said when officiating at the ceremony, “We are upskilling CHWs with the necessary knowledge and skills to help mothers and babies, but how can you help them when they do not come to the health facilities or antenatal clinics for routine check-ups”.
Prof Mola said information reaching mothers through word of mouth about some mothers being saved in health facilities was a good way of encouraging others to do the same and be saved from life-threatening situations. It is absolutely essential that the CHWs also make a strong effort to attract pregnant women to their Health Centres.
He added that family planning was another issue where mothers need to get more professional advice. The most important issue is to have contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies and he was concerned some women once pregnant do things which are not safe for themselves or their unborn babies.
“Some women are still giving birth at 40 years and above and some are having babies every year and this is dangerous for their health and that of their children. Many of these women are well educated and they must change their attitudes”, he said.
Prof Mola suggested they must space their children and have them every three years or more so that they could grow up to be strong and healthy children.
The six-month CHW upskilling training course was the sixth to be conducted by the Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority (WHPHA) since the first one in midwifery was conducted in 2012. More than 57 CHWs from health facilities in Western Highlands, Enga and Jiwaka provinces have completed this training.
This year’s training which was funded by UNICEF with support from the WHPHA saw eight participants from both government and church-run health facilities in Western Highlands graduate.
The upskilling training program has brought great benefits to the respective health facilities and communities where the CHWs worked in but the real benefit must be seen – an increase in supervised deliveries. This is a challenge for the CHWs and community at large to encourage attendance at a health facility when giving birth.