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Fight against maternal mortality in covid-19 context: UNFPA deploys the “Baby Box” strategy

On Thursday, August 13th 2020, the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Manaouda Malachie, presided over the launching ceremony of the “Baby Box” Strategy proposed to the government by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


Dr.Manaouda in his speech
Photo/UNFPA August 2020

In attendance were the Representatives of UNFPA, Siti Batoul Oussein and UNICEF, Jacques Boyer, as well as health professionals, among whom regional delegates of public health from the Far North, North, Adamawa, East and Center Regions. The above mentioned being the beneficiary regions of the Maternal, Newborn and Infant Health Support Project (MNISP) funded by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Since the adoption of its 2016-2027 sector strategy, the Ministry of Public Health has accelerated investments to reduce infant and maternal morbidity and mortality. This produced effects which were quite noticeable. In this light, the maternal mortality ratio witnessed a drop from 782 to 467 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 2011 and 2018. However, the COVID-19 health crisis slowed down this momentum by resulting in a reluctance from pregnant women in receiving care in hospitals or health facilities for fear of being contaminated.


Sample Baby Boxes to be sent to
the regions. Photo/ UNFPA August
2020

 

It is estimated nationally that about 137,800 deliveries will not take place in health facilities in 2020 due to disruptions in the health system. As a result, the progress rate in the fight against maternal mortality has witnessed a decline. Professor Mbu Enow Robinson, Director of Family Health at the Ministry of Public Health specified the outlines and indicated the government's response in these terms:

“Since we recorded a few cases of COVID-19 in the country in March 2020, women have been afraid of being consulted in standard hospitals because they fear they will be infected. Due financial difficulties, many no longer come to give birth in hospitals where there are trained staff and rather prefer to go to small health centers. Considering this situation and to encourage women to return to hospitals, there came a need to find a way of attracting them again. We, therefore, decided to offer a kit of items for the baby, mother and father, as well as protective equipment against COVID-19. It is this combination of articles which make up the Baby Box ".


Madame Siti during her speech.
Photo/ UNFPA August 2020

Through this initiative to set up maternities protected from the risk of COVID-19 contamination coupled with the provision of the "Baby Box", the Ministry of Public Health and UNFPA ensure the continuity of service delivery in maternal health despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 in Cameroon. For a start, the maternity wards of 21 hospitals supported by the MNISP are already providing the 1261 Baby Boxes already deployed in the field. This gave room for Minister Manaouda Malachie to thank the quality of cooperation between his ministerial department and UNFPA as well as the support and confidence of the IDB in the fight against maternal, neonatal and infant mortality in Cameroon.