Make access to antenatal services a top priority

The Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare admitted on Thursday that few pregnant Rwandan women seek antenatal services.

The Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare admitted on Thursday that few pregnant Rwandan women seek antenatal services.

According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), every 476 per 100, 000 women die during pregnancy and delivery.

Figures also indicate that as many as 67 per cent of child mortality occur during the neonatal period – those first few but highly sensitive weeks when the newborn needs maximum nursing care.

Yet the grim reality is that the country has a paltry 30 specialist gynecologists, which is equivalent to one per district! Officials hope this figure will double next year, but it will remain a drop in the ocean.

We have become accustomed to tales of pregnant women who go through a lot as they prepare to bring a life to earth, because of failure to access quality healthcare on time.

To ease this situation there is need for concerted efforts and mobilising all the resources at our disposal to make sure that no woman dies during pregnancy or delivery from causes that could have been avoided with proper healthcare.

A mass sensitisation campaign should be introduced and sustained at the grassroots to encourage women to seek antenatal and postnatal care and this should become one of the key performance indicators under local leaders’ performance contracts (Imihigo).

Two, there is need to urgently devise a stop-gap mechanism to take antenatal and neonatal services closer to the people. This requires developing a multidisciplinary approach that would include social workers, health practitioners and all partners in the health sector, with a view to ensuring that basic health care is availed across the country.

Three, there is need for a comprehensive capacity building programme to increase the number of gynecologists and obstetricians, and to create conditions that will motivate these specialists to work in the countryside.

We need to act as soon as yesterday.

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