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WHO: Investing in primary healthcare for mother and child will reduce preventable death

WHO: Investing in primary healthcare for mother and child will reduce preventable death

WHO Representative to Timor-Leste, Arvind Mathur. Image/WHO

DILI, 21 july 2022 (TATOLI)– The Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Timor-Leste, Arvin Mathur urged the country to invest in primary healthcare for mothers and children health’ to focus on reducing preventable deaths.

WHO Representative Arvin Mathur made his statement following the celebration of National Health Day,  with the theme of ‘strengthening the essential package of primary healthcare for mother and child health’.

In his statement, Mathur highlighted that for every 100,000 live births in Timor-Leste, an estimated 195 women die due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth. The country’s Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) which looks at children who died during the first 28 days of life stands at 22 per 1000 live births and it’s Under Five Mortality Rate stands at 41 per 1000 live births.

“These estimates were drawn in 2016, and even as we believe that the nation has made tremendous progress around maternal and child health since then, we cannot let our guards down,” said Mathur.

Timor-Leste became one of the eight countries in the world to achieve the maternal health-related Millennium Development Goals in 2015. It was around the same time that the government’s Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescents Health (RMNCAH) strategy was launched with a target to reduce MMR to 300 per 100,000 live births, NMR to 15 per 1000 live births, and U-5 mortality rate to 40 per 1000 live births by 2019. But before the nation could gather data on its progress, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it further impacted maternal and childcare services.

He considered Timor-Leste has been grappling with two core challenges in maternal and child health including low institutional delivery rate and poor antenatal care follow-ups.

“Nearly half of the childbirths are taking place in homes. Home births pose a substantial risk to the mother and the child due to a lack of access to skilled care in case of complications such as postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, and sepsis among others. It has also been observed that one-fourth of pregnant women do not receive the minimal four antenatal contacts during which ultrasound can pick up health risks to the mother and the baby. The pandemic has further exacerbated these core challenges,” he explained.

Concerning the maternal and child death issue, WHO considers it is important to always provide a stock of medication for controlling the bleeding after childbirth and other hypertensive drugs in all primary care sets ups while the health care facilities should also follow stringent infection control protocol.

“The WHO has provided necessary technical assistance for IEC materials for awareness but importantly in ensuring evidence guidelines, protocols, and tools for maternal, newborn and child health care are available,”

WHO continues to support capacity building for quality Essential and Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care services. It has been supporting Timor-Leste in strengthening organized midwifery, which has played a key role in reducing maternal and neonatal deaths. One of the key approaches that WHO is supporting is the Ministry of Health in Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response. 

“Every maternal death is a tragedy but not learning from these deaths is a bigger tragedy. While WHO is committed to offering continuous support to the Ministry of Health, the country needs to learn from these tragic deaths, nail the problems or loopholes in the healthcare system that are leading to these deaths, and pull in all resources to prevent them. Timor-Leste’s Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance is an important step in this direction. This surveillance is conducted with the sheer motive of identifying the events that led to maternal death without naming or shaming anyone within the healthcare system. The sole aim of this surveillance is to prevent similar scenarios to avoid maternal deaths in the future,”

Mathur said, to prevent maternally, and newborn death and stillbirth during labour and childbirth it is important to ensure the provision of high-quality, essential care for every pregnant woman and every baby around the time of labor, childbirth and in the first 24 hours and week after birth. 

“This provides a unique period along the continuum of care to prevent maternal and newborn deaths as well as intrapartum stillbirths. By strengthening and investing in this critical window, it is a triple return on investment. Well-planned strategies and initiatives like these will go a long way in strengthening Timor-Leste’s mother and childcare services and will help the nation achieve the maternal health-related SDGs by 2030,” He said.

 

Journalist: Filomeno Martins

Editor: Nelia Borges

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