BUGSONGO (U/E), A UNICEF Team of health experts and consultants are in the Upper East Region to assess the implementation of the Mother-Baby-Friendly Health Facility Initiatives (MBFHI) project aimed at reducing infant and neonatal deaths.

The MBFHI is being piloted in the Kassena-Nankana West, the Bongo, Bawku and the Bolgatanga Municipality.

The two-year project has interventions including advocacy and focus group discussions to ensure increase demand for ante-natal and post-natal services, early initiation to breast feeding within 30 minutes after birth, exclusive breastfeeding and promoting basic new-born care.

The four districts are the only ones selected to pilot the project being implemented by some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in partnership with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), with financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment (RISE-Ghana), an NGO, is complementing the efforts of the Regional Health Directorate to implement the project in the Kassena-Nankana West District.

Awal Ahmed Kariama, the Executive Director of RISE-Ghana, expressed gratitude to the Team to observe the efforts of community mobilisation, advocacy and sensitisation programmes targeting traditional rulers, mothers of new born babies, pregnant women, husbands, mothers-in-law, community and religious leaders to ensure project success.

He said focus group discussions and advocacy had been organised in 32 communities in the District to increase demand for skilled delivery, optimal breastfeeding, and maternal and new born care services in line with the National Newborn Strategy and the SDGs.

Emmanuel Mba, the Project Officer of RISE-Ghana, facilitated a session on exclusive breastfeeding, indicating that it goes beyond the health of the baby to include the well-being of the mother and the community at large and entreated stakeholders, particularly husbands, to encourage it.

Mrs Asakibeem Alabalge, a mother of twins, said had it not been for the project she would have found it very difficult to manage the babies as they were preterm.

I was schooled to take my child through Kangaro mother care. Now my babies are all right and look normal. I am very grateful to the project and I want to encourage everybody, particularly women, to put into practice what we have learnt from the project.

Dr Priscilla Wobil, a Health Specialist, Tamale UNICEF Field Office, called on the community members to support the GHS in its operations.

Shecalled on the NGOs to support the community to engage in advocacy to strengthen the Health Insurance Scheme to sustain the gains made.

Dr Nabila Zaka, a Senior Advisor in-charge of Maternal and Newborn Healthcare of UNICEF, New York, commended the implementing partners for the work done and urged them to improve on it to achieve the desired results.

The community members complained about lack of some medications for pregnant women, particularly during delivery, and blamed the problem on the delay of government to reimburse service providers.