Maternal, Newborn, Child Health: Mortality Rates Curbed, Hospital Delivery Figures Raised

Statistics from Doume Health District in the East Region show that greater awareness and the offer of motorbike ambulances by UNFPA have enabled more rural women to be promptly transported to health facilities for safe delivery.

According to the last Cameroon Demographic and Health Survey and the 2014 Multi-indicator Cluster Survey Statistics, MICS report, about 7,000 women die in the country due to pregnancy complications or during delivery. While neonatal mortality (the death rate of babies in the first 28 days of life) was 28 deaths per 1,000 live births. Concerned by the situation, government, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, launched the Support Project for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Cameroon, PASMNI.

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Running from 2018-2022, the project is funded by the Islamic Development Bank, IsDB. It covers 34 health districts in the Far North, North, Adamawa, East and South Regions - the most vulnerable in the country. Doume Health District in the East Region, which comprises three administrative subdivisions in Upper Nyong Division (Doume, Doumaintang and Dimako), is also included in the project. The health district counts 132 communities and a population of 55,000. Two years into the implementation of the project in Doume Health District, the results are already encouraging.

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Dr Kouam Paulin, District Medical Officer for Doume, says a 100 per cent increase was recently recorded in vaccination and antenatal clinic attendance. This followed sensitisation campaigns for people to continue to patronise orthodox health services – despite the Coronavirus pandemic, he explains. The awareness campaigns were led by Multitask Community Health Workers and volunteers of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education.

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In 2020, for example, the number of births in health facilities in Doume Health District shot up from 25 per cent two years ago to 55 per cent, Dr Kouam discloses. “Also in 2020, we had only one death of a nursing mother, and this happened at home where she gave birth. Similarly, there were three newborn deaths – two in hospital and one at home. The ones who died in hospital were brought in late. Before 2020, we recorded between 15-28 declared deaths of children and 5-6 maternal deaths a year,” the District Medical Officer notes with a feeling of “work well done!”

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According to Nwelndje Adolphe Gustave, field epidemiologist and Head, Doume Health District Health Bureau, these results were made possible by the offer by UNFPA of 16 motorbike ambulances. Managed and maintained by community members themselves, the bikes transport patients to hospital for treatment and pregnant women for safe delivery. “Two years ago, some women in labour in certain remote communities were transported to hospital on backs! Today, motorbike ambulances are there to transport them comfortably,” Nwelndje recalls. Meanwhile, the role of traditional birth attendants has been diminished as pregnant women are sensitised to go to hospital.

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PASMNI project achievements also include the training by UNICEF of 42 Multitask Community Health Workers (volunteers) and the offer of bicycles by UNICEF to ease their work. Volunteers track down and report deaths in their communities and also offer basic healthcare for the sick. However, many volunteers are getting tired, being for the most part over 50 years old.

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Despite the success of the project, Doume Health District has no vehicle and is poorly staffed. Both the District Medical Officer and aides go about their work on motorbikes.  

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