Shock rise in infant mortality rate

Shock rise in infant mortality rate

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU

THE government is alarmed by the increasing number of babies dying in health care facilities when compared with those dying at home during birth.

Dr ’Nyane Letsie, who is the Public Health Director, said the Ministry of Health has since set up a committee to investigate the causes of the spike.

Letsie was speaking at the launch of the Child Mortality Review committee in Maseru on Tuesday.

“It has come to our attention that more children die in health care facilities than they do at home and this is worrying,” Letsie said.

The committee piloted child mortality reviews at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital in December last year where a structural clinical audit of children dying in the peadiatric and neonatal ward was done.

The data, which according to the committee representative, Thabelo Makhupane “could not be given out for public consumption” has given the committee the opportunity to reflect on the country’s current performance and the quality of care that children receive in the health system.

After failing to meet the Millennium Development Goals having obtained under-five mortality rate of 80 per 1000 live births as opposed to 37 per 1000 live births, Letsie said urgent steps must be taken to reduce infant mortality.

“Children are innocent and health care systems need to take care of their lives,” Letsie said.

“Lesotho as a country like many others, we care about children and they have the right to live,” she said.

“The cause of death needs to be addressed. We need to improve the quality of care. Child death can be reduced.”

Participants at the meeting also raised concern over the working conditions of mothers in the factories and other hazardous workplaces.

“There is a shortage of nurses for pregnant women and children who work in factories. We need to work with environmental health workers to assess the conditions reigning in factories,” one participant said.

Letsie said a study conducted by the ministry had revealed that some factory workers’ children die because of malnutrition.

She said the committee set up for the child mortality review should include nutrition experts from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Letsie said there is also need to engage planning experts from the Ministry of Development Planning and other expert stakeholders in issues pertaining to factors that can contribute to child mortality.

“It has been researched that the chances of survival of a child who is separated from its mother at two weeks old is very low. The terms of maternity leave may differ from one employee to another but to leave a child at two weeks old is a risk. Issues like this one affects the Ministry of Labour,” Letsie said.

“We need to address the grassroots of the cause of death because we only meet these children at a clinical level,” she added.

The Director of Primary Health Care, Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, said the ministry together with relevant stakeholders is also working on a workplace programme which is very comprehensive and includes factory workers.

“The programme makes sure that a factory worker gets family planning services close to work and pre-maternal and post-maternal services provided to them. We have also had discussions about the number of days for leave. Two weeks after birth is not enough,” Ramatlapeng said.

UNICEF deputy representative, Victor Ankrah, commended the ministry for setting up the child mortality review.

“Every child death is a loss, especially when we are losing a child to a preventable disease. This initiative by the committee is very important. It’s an epic event,” Ankrah said.

“This systematic review is grounded in the respect of children’s rights and the respect for their parents,” he said.

Ankrah said to find the exact causes of death for children under the age of five was very difficult because most countries, including Lesotho, do not have vital registration systems.

“For this, it is harder to get a clear picture of what could really be the causes of child death in Lesotho because the statistics are collected as a model. This committee is a ground breaking initiative for our country,” Ankrah said.

“The committee’s work is to give us information on how many deaths we have and why children are dying but this information should not end as that, it should translate into a programme,” he said.

He urged the ministry to look at the United Nations blueprint on reducing child death and link it to what is happening in Lesotho.

“We will not fail the mother and fail the children. We need to see what needs to be done to prevent the death of the next child or mother. We have done well over five years to have reduced infant mortality from 117 per 1000 live births to 80 per 1000 live births,” Ankrah said.

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