Hitting the road with the Pro-Link team the last week of October was a great way to experience first hand the Healthy Mother and Child project, a corporate social responsibility initiative by Italian company eni Oil. Ghana is rich in oil (and gold, hence it used to be called the Gold Coast) and there are many foreign companies extracting here.
It took us seven hours to get to Essiama, a small town in the Ellembelle district in the Western Region, where the maternal health training would take place with 31 local nurses and health workers. I’ve learned it’s not so much the distance but time of day, and actual day that adds hours to your travels. Accra traffic is crazy and the police stop vehicles randomly, clogging up the roads and causing unending jams.You cannot be in a hurry. Difficult for my North American sensibilities. It is best to avoid rush hour if possible. Also avoid Fridays. Sundays are perfect – everyone is in church.
The training took place at the Wantapa Hotel where we were staying. From sun up to sun down the days were brutally hot. Hardworking AC just barely kept us from melting. I took pictures and notes as the the group learned about infection prevention, medical waste disposal, infant feeding and nutrition, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling and more.
There are certain traditional practices that the health workers are fighting to change and perhaps the most damaging is herbal enemas to speed the birthing process. “They trigger contractions, but they also damage the uterus,” Trudi Nunoo, Pro-Link’s executive director told me. The trouble is, this practice is encouraged by grandmothers, aunties and traditional birth attendants, so health workers must educate the whole community, not just expecting mothers.
We also visited a number of maternal health clinic renovations and new constructions in the area. In total, there are 15 facilities in the project: Half Assini, New Ankasa, Tweakor II, Ekabeku, New Town, Samaye, Adubrim, Asomase, Aidoo Suazo, Aiyinasi, Asasetre, Essiama, Nokroful, Tikobo No. 1 and Agona Nkwanta. Mind boggling.
Here’s an official description:
The Healthy Mother and Child project addresses important maternal health and child health issues in the Jomoro, Ellenbelle and Ahanta West districts in Ghana’s Western Region. The project aims to support Ghanaian Healthcare Authority action to achieve the Millennium Goals, number 4 and 5 —reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. A major focus is revamping neglected maternity blocks as well as building new facilities so that women may give birth safely, with a skilled professional health care worker in attendance. Additionally, the project will ensure children and families receive improved health care in their communities.
Included in the project is training for almost 400 nurses and other health care providers, formation of Mummies’, Daddies’ and Adolescents’ clubs to provide positive maternal and child health education, and new medical equipment and furniture for the revamped and newly constructed maternal health facilities.
Part of my job here is to document the progress of the project, which is due for completion spring of 2016….so far one site is completed and seven are more than 50 per cent done. Fingers crossed the rest will meet the deadline!