The Minister for Health, Diane Gashumba, has urged Rwandans to embrace family planning services to contribute to the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality.
She said the more children a mother produces the higher the risks of pregnancy complications which can eventually lead to death.
The minister was briefing journalists in Kigali about progress in neonatal care.
The minister noted that family planning reduces the chance of mothers dying during delivery by up to 30 per cent.
Speaking at Muhima Hospital on Thursday, the minister said child mortality rates have drastically dropped in recent years.
Infant mortality declined from 86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 32 in 2014-15, according to the ministry.
During the same period, under-5 mortalities sharply declined from 152 to 50 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Maternal mortality decreased between 2010 and 2014-15 from 750 to 210 deaths (due to pregnancy, during delivery and in postpartum period-42 days after delivery) per 100,000 live births.
Gashumba said that the success is because 91 per cent of deliveries now take place in health facilities, and expanded access to health services for the poor and other vulnerable groups through the community Mutuelle de Santé covering 90 per cent of the population.
“In spite of this notable progress, the current mortality rates are still high, a lot needs to be done to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3. Meeting the SDG target would reduce that number of under-five deaths globally by 10 million between 2017 and 2030,” she said.
“I think we are on a good track towards that end but there is need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to fill all the gaps and sustain the good practices where we have strength.”
SDG 3 is concerned with ensuring health lives and well-being.
If current trends continue, over 60 million children under 5 years of age will die between 2017 and 2030 globally, about half of which would be newborns.
Ted Maly, the UNICEF Rwanda country representative, commended the ministry for its efforts in reducing maternal and child deaths.
“Rwanda has made significant progress in reducing the number of children who die from preventable causes and 90 per cent of women deliver with skilled attendance at health facilities. The UNICEF is proud to have contributed to the achievement of reduction of maternal and child deaths through various interventions but as we still have a long way to go to meet the SDGs goals we shall continue to offer our support where needed,” he said.
The UNICEF, through a mentorship programme, is supporting Muhima hospital staff to improve their skills.
Under the same project, $500,000 has been set aside to acquire neonatal equipment aimed at saving babies during their first month of life.
According to the Ministry of Health, efforts are ongoing to build a health post in all cells across the country, where people still have to walk more than 5km to reach the nearest health facility.
Statistics from the Rwanda Demographic Health survey 2014/2015 indicate that in the last decade, the number of children per woman decreased from 6.1 to 4.2 children from 2005.
This can be attributed to about 1 in 2 married women aged 15-49 using any form of family planning.
The use of any family planning method has tripled from 17 per cent in 2005 to 53 per cent in 2014-15.