Health campaigners and public health systems have made visible milestones towards promoting global maternal and infant health care. The world is more and more a healthier place for nursing mothers and their babies. However, more commitment is needed given that 6 million children die globally every year before their 6th birthday mostly from preventable causes.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, 51 in1000 children born in Cameroon die before 12 months mostly from causes arising during pregnancy or within the first month of birth.
The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services’ Antenatal Care (ANC) clinics are making strong commitments to better the health of babies and their mothers during pregnancy and after birth.
Close to 120 women with their babies gather at the Nkwen Baptist Health Center (Mbingo Annex) Bamenda every month – during antenatal clinic – for routine vaccines and checking of vitals of their babies.
Marry Anne Chumbong, a midwife at NKwen Baptist Health Center, says babies are vulnerable to so many diseases at the early stages after birth. “When we vaccinate the babies, we immunize them against infections such as Poliomyelitis, rotavirus, measles, pneumonia, and a host of other infections,” avows Mary Anne who works at the at the Infant Welfare Clinic.
“Our immunization calendar (routine vaccination) here begins from 0-59 months. But since we don’t yet have a maternity at Nkwen Baptist Health Center, BCG and Polio Zero are given in the hospitals where the children are delivered. We start receiving babies here from six weeks and take them with the routine vaccination till 59 months,” explains Mary Anne.
“In the second stage (at 10 weeks), we give them Pneumo 2, Rota 2, Polio 2 and DTP 2. At 14 weeks, we continue with Pneumo 3, Polio 3, DTP 3, and the Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV). At 6 months, we give the children 100,000 International Unit Vitamin A, and continue with weight taking of the children,” details Mary Anne.
She adds that for effective follow up of routine vaccination of children at Nkwen Baptist Health Center, they issue a certificate to the mother after her baby has consistently received the routine vaccination in nine months.
Reports say fighting against infections such as Polio is one of the biggest success stories in global health. However, Every Breath Counts says 860,000 children died of Pneumonia in 2017. The disease kills more children than any other infectious disease.
In 2016, the Poliovirus was said to exist only in Afghanistan and Pakistan compared to 350,000 cases recorded in 125 countries in 1988.
Routine vaccination has proven effective for babies in fighting against these infections. But access to primary health facilities and consistency on the part of parents in ensuring that their babies get complete vaccination doses over the required period of time remains a big challenge.
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said – during the October 25 Astana Conference on Primary Health Care – that primary health care (PHC) means the global community bringing quality health services close to those who need them.
Mrs Njoya Perpetua, Head of the Mother and Child Health Department at Nkwen Baptist Health Center, says the CBC Health Services has health facilities in villages that are not motorable, making it difficult for women to visit them during pregnancy and even after birth.
“We have devised a safe means by which our field workers trek and carry these pregnant women to the health centre for delivery, which is a tedious task. Having a healthy child starts during pregnancy. And the child’s health after birth is also determined by the health care given to the mother during pregnancy,” remarks Perpetua.
The strong commitment of midwives at Nkwen Baptist Health Center has given the health centre a good reputation in Bamenda city when it comes to Antenatal and Infant Welfare Clinics.
In 2012, the health centre was receiving averagely 35 children and about 20 pregnant women in a month, but today close to 150 children come for routine vaccination and about 120 pregnant women come for antenatal care every month.
“The pregnant women and nursing mothers who come here testify about our services. Though we don’t yet have a maternity, the number of women who come here every month is more than the number seen in hospitals with big maternities in Bamenda,” says Perpetua, the Head Nurse.
On October 25, 2018, countries around the world met during the Astana Conference and signed the Declaration of Astana, vowing to increase commitments in strengthening primary health care in their respective regions as an essential step towards ensuring universal health coverage.
If the stakeholders truly begin to ‘walk the talk’ after the Declaration of Astana, then maternal and child health will be a reality in many underserved communities.