Mr Alhassan Awal, Director of the Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), a Tamale-based gender and reproductive health advocacy organisation, said the initiative to increase access to antenatal services for pregnant women had yielded positive results.
Mr Awal said the organisation had established the Maternal Male Champions (MMC) and Pregnant Support Group (PSG) in four districts: Gushegu, Karaga, Tolon and Sagnerigu in the Northern Region in partnership with the Ghana Health Service to reduce maternal and child death.
The groups meet to discuss and share ideas on childcare, safe motherhood, sexually transmitted diseases and how to manage birth-related complications to support the NGO’s maternal and child health project called “Live Birth; Smiling Mothers.”
Mr Awal, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency as a prelude to the International Women’s Day celebration in Ghana, said the initiative had enlightened the groups on the importance of allowing women to patronise antenatal and postnatal care services.
The project is being sponsored by Star Ghana.
He said the project also ensured that pregnant women delivered under the supervision of qualified midwives in approved health centres.
The “Live Births: Smiling Mothers” project is an initiative of NORSAAC, with funding of 200,000 dollars from STAR-Ghana to increase significantly facility-based deliveries and the number of pregnant women accessing antenatal and postnatal care services in 24 project communities located in the four districts.
The project was also to strengthen community structures to address and improve maternal health outcomes between the district assemblies, the Ghana Health Service and community health teams in the 24 communities from the four districts.
Mr Awal said a number of men in Bagurugu, a farming community in the Karaga District, were supporting a maternal health campaign being implemented in the community.
He said opinion leaders in the Bagurugu Community were selected and trained by the project to act as MMC and had engaged other men in other communities on issues affecting pregnant women as well as explaining to them the importance of letting their wives go to the clinic for check-up regularly.
Mr Awal explained that a baseline survey conducted in six of the project communities revealed that the involvement of men in maternal related issues was high in urban areas and low in rural areas.
He said the the NGO could not make progress in reducing maternal mortality if it failed to get the men involved because they played a critical role in the decision making process in their homes and communities.
He said most of the opinion leaders had pledged to work towards the modification of an old traditional practice called Pa Prigibu, which forbids first time pregnant women from accessing antenatal care services.
He said the reason for the long held tradition was to confirm the pregnancy and also prepare the pregnant woman physically, emotional and psychologically towards motherhood.
He said the opinion leaders also accompanied their wives to the clinic so as to encourage other men to emulate their example.
Mr Awal said most of the pregnant women refused to take drugs because they feared their unborn child might grow big in the stomach and let them suffer during labour or be compelled to go through caesarian operation during delivery.
He said through the Star-Ghana support project, which started in February, 2013, child births in the health facilities had increased from zero to eight out of 11 deliveries in the community. GNA