From donkey carts to ambulance vans - how pregnant women are saved in rural Ghana

From donkey carts to ambulance vans – saving pregnant women in Ghana
A change from donkey carts to ambulatory services saves pregnant women in rural Ghana. This is in support of efforts to improve maternal health. (Photo credit: Bossman Owusu, UNDP in Ghana)

“But for the ambulance van, I would have been carried on a donkey cart or a motorbike to the nearest clinic or hospital. It could have been a little too late to save either my life or that of my unborn child”, says Rina Laartegee who had serious running discharge during labour and had to undergo emergency Caesarean section.

A large number of women die annually as a result of pregnancy related complications such as severe bleeding, hypertension, infections and abortions.

The latest Ghana Millennium Development Goals (MDG) report shows that Ghana's maternal mortality ratio remains high (164 per 100,000 live births in 2010) despite several efforts and interventions by government and development partners to improve maternal health.

Highlights

  • UNDP donated 3 ambulance vans and health accessories valued at US$ 200,000 health centres in deprived communities to improve access and delivery of health especially among pregnant women
  • In 2014 alone, 49 pregnancy-related cases were saved in Piina where UNDP donated one of the ambulances.
  • The donation is in support of efforts by the Government of Ghana to implement the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) on maternal health.

In a country where three out of every five districts health directorates have no ambulance services to carry pregnant women to health facilities during emergencies, UNDP’s donation of three ambulance vans and health accessories to the Piina Health Centre comes in handy.

“Since 2013 when we received the ambulance from UNDP, no single case of maternal death has been recorded in Piina”, says Ms. Florence Dery, the nursing officer in-charge of the Piina Health Centre.

The donation worth US$ 200,000 made to three health centres in deprived communities was to improve access and delivery of health care in deprived areas, especially among pregnant women, in support of the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service for the implementation of MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) on maternal health.  

The Piina Health Centre, in the Lambussie District of the Upper West Region of Ghana serves more than 5,000 people in Piina and surrounding communities. The donated van transports emergency labour cases to the Health Centre and other hospitals in the region, covering about 20 km.

“Between January and December 2014, forty-nine pregnancy-related cases, including prolonged labour, previous Caesarean section, threat of abortion and malaria in pregnancy were referred from the Piina Health Centre to hospitals for safe delivery. Without the ambulance, the story would have been different”, says Florence.  

The MDG Acceleration Framework on maternal health is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health, Government of Ghana, the United Nations system and other stakeholders to reduce the maternal mortality ratio in Ghana.

It focuses on improving maternal health at the level of both community and district health care facilities, with three key priority areas including improved family planning, skilled delivery and emergency obstetric and newborn care.

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