CA$2.5M project launched to tackle maternal, neonatal mortality in hinterland regions

…75% of deaths were babies under 28 days old – Canadian Professor

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony observes as High Commissioner Mark Berman and Associate Clinical Professor, Dr Narendra Singh signs the agreement

A CA$2.5 million project was on Tuesday launched with the main aim of decreasing maternal mortality and increasing the survival of children under the age of five in the hinterland.
The project “Maternal, Newborn and Child Health” is being funded under Global Affairs Canada and executed by McMaster University and Giving Health to Kids. It will be implemented over five years.
The project is aimed at complementing the Government of Guyana’s efforts to increase the quality and availability of maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) care in the hinterland: Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine.
Associate Clinical Professor at McMaster University, Dr Narendra Singh underlined that there is a gross discrepancy between the level of service offered to mothers in the hinterland versus those on the coast.
“If a mother delivers a baby in [the hinterland] today, does that mother have the same chance of survival? Does that mother, that baby have the same chance of survival as if that mother delivered that baby a GPHC? And the answer is no. That’s why we’re here today because of that gross discrepancy between the rural and the urban areas,” he reasoned.
He noted that 75 to 80 per cent of deaths were babies under 28 days old.
However, engagement with President Dr Irfaan Ali would have led to the procurement of equipment which will soon arrive.
“With the President’s vision of building this new maternal child facility, we need to train as many subspecialists as possible. Not only physicians, but also nurses.”
Neonatologist and Board Member of Giving Health to Kids, Dr Leif Nelin underscored that the Child Mortality rate is 28 per 1000 live births and the neonatal mortality rate, which is part of the child mortality rate, is 17 per 1000 live births.
Dr Nelin told stakeholders, “Neonatal mortality, which is the death that occurs in the baby before they reach age 28 days, is the majority of deaths that cause the Child Mortality Rate to be 28 per 1000, so we will need to work on neonatal mortality in this project…. The problem is the same as for many countries, and that is that there’s a discrepancy a disparity between urban health and rural health. There are fewer people in rural areas, there’s less access to healthcare. There’s less infrastructure available for healthcare.”
The idea is to train health workers to provide high-quality care as they would at GPHC and provide the necessary equipment for antenatal testing with resources for post-partum care.
The intermediate outcome is to have increased access to and utilisation of health services that respond to the needs of poor women, pregnant women, mothers and infants in the regions outlined. An indicator is also having 78 per cent of pregnant women having their first check-up within 12 weeks by 2028; and also has 50 per cent of deliveries conducted by skilled birth personnel during this period.
Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Mark Berman expressed, “The launch of this project comes at a strategic time, in which we’re seeing affirmation of the importance of gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls through achievements and sustainable goals…And throughout the world, including in developed countries such as Canada, we see that accountability, affordability, sustainability, all of the accounting and availability of health services targeted towards women without discrimination continues to be an issue and challenges in many places.”
Advisor to the Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy outlined that achieving the target of 75 years of life expectancy by 2030, in alignment with the SDGs, can be done but will require work.
“We are confident that we will achieve that target but we will not be able to unless our indicators of maternal mortality and child mortality are dramatically improved to what it is today. No strategy or plan that we put together to bring life expectancy to the same as what exists in Caricom will succeed unless we have a robust programme to ensure that mothers could deliver their babies safely and that we are able to keep our babies alive.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony emphasised that more than a decade ago, neonatal care was not available in Guyana. Now, this project would build on the foundation to have adequate care in the different regions.
Last year, President Dr Irfaan Ali turned the sod for specialised €149 million Paediatric and Maternal Hospital that will be constructed at Goedverwagting on the East Coast Demerara.
The low-rise Paediatric and Maternal Hospital will have 256 beds and will be a referral centre for women and children. It will specialise in maternal, neonatal, and paediatric care with a huge imaging suite for services such as CT scans and MRIs, a modern laboratory, and surgical suites.