Access Maternal Health Services Remains Low, Says UNDP

A mother recuperating in the maternity ward of Mundari Hospital [Gurtong | File]

UNDP research has found out that some of the challenges identified in scaling up of PMTCT services include low attendance at Antenatal Clinics (ANC) which stands at 26 per cent.

There is also low access to health facility deliveries at just 14 per cent and poor infrastructure in antenatal clinics and maternity departments where there is no adequate space and facilities to provide quality counselling and testing services and limited human capacity.

She said quality PMTCT services in the country shall be very important as they provide in a setting where ANC and maternity services are strengthened and having a conducive environment that will motivate mothers to get tested.

Additionally, friendly environment in maternity wards will motivate mothers to deliver in health facilities hence easy to follow up on HIV positive mothers and exposed babies. 

She said that the World Health Organisation has supported the ministry of health with 20 mini libraries to be distributed to the 10 states. These Blue Trunks libraries are used as referral resources for communicable diseases and public health issues including HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. 

She says gaps identified at Antenatal Clinics and Maternity Wards in the country include lack of adequate or appropriate facilities, equipment, furniture, supplies as well as skilled health workers. 

One of the key gaps in the ANCs is that most of the Health facilities do not have specific spaces to offer ANC and where space exists, it is only one room and a small waiting area.

These ANC’s also do not have adequate supplies like furniture where you see mothers sit on the floor while waiting for services and the storage of supplies is not good since they have no storage spaces. The lack of space has led to having difficulties in finding space where others could be offered the HIV testing since for PMTCT, the testing has to be integrated within the ANCs.

The lack of waiting space and lack of furniture makes it difficult to provide quality counselling services since the mothers are not comfortable.

In maternity ward, a similar problem exists where there is no space where mother who report in labour without knowing their status can be counselled and tested.

Maternity wards are seen as another opportunity for reaching mothers and babies with PMTCT services. Therefore there is need to ensure that maternity wards have space for counselling and testing the mothers as well as adequate supplies to provide quality services.

The other gap is the providers since most of the facilities are run by village midwives whose literacy levels are low making it difficult to train them. Hence, there is need to recruit people who can be trained as counsellors for the ANC sites to provide the services.

Currently only 16 of all the health facilities are providing PMTCT services which may not be of the required quality due to infrastructure problems.

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