The numbers are staggering. It’s estimated that almost 300,000 women died during pregnancy and almost six million children succumb before their fifth birthday.
Acknowledging that preventable deaths of mothers and children in developing countries rank among the greatest tragedies of this century, Canada is supporting The Hospital for Sick Children in an initiative to increase paediatric nurse training to help improve health outcomes for newborns and children in Ghana.
The five-year “Scaling Up Paediatric Nursing Care in Ghana” project will strengthen health systems by training paediatric nurses and health care workers in the country’s most challenged and under-served communities.
“As a country, we cannot stand idly by while women and children around the world suffer and die from largely preventable causes,” Newmarket-Aurora Member of Parliament Lois Brown said at a press conference last week to announce the initiative. “Our government is proud of our successful partnership with SickKids in strengthening paediatric health systems by training health care workers to provide quality, cost-effective and sustainable nursing and midwifery care to newborns in Ghana.”
Under the new initiative, some 1,500 nurses, midwives and health workers are expected to receive quality training that will benefit almost 6.7 million children and newborns.
SickKids is implementing the initiative with the Ghana Ministry of Health and the new Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives, which was established during a pilot project to advance nursing and midwifery professionalism, practice and leadership in the West African country.
Canada is providing the approximately $5.85 billion in funding.
“This is an example of what we can accomplish when partners come together in the name of the greater good,” said Brown, whose son-in-law is Ghanaian-born Dr. Kofi Asante, who is a patent holding specialist in energy systems and engineering. “Even with the best of intentions, no organization or government can possibly confront the challenges of maternal and newborn health care.
“In order to reach maternal newborn and child health goals, our government wants to expand existing partnerships and initiate new ones among civil society, academic and private sector organizations because these partners play a critical role in shaping and delivering on Canada’s top development priority.”
Canada recently launched a call for proposals for partnerships to help strengthen maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH).
“It’s a first step in Canada’s renewed MNCH collaboration with Canadian partners,” said Brown. “This new call for proposals will support initiatives that help reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality in targeted developing countries by addressing the critical health needs of vulnerable mothers and their children. The call will build on work done under the Muskoka Initiative and its focus will be on three paths – strengthening health systems, reducing the burden of disease and improving nutrition. And it will complement the good work that has already been done to bring us closer to our goal of eliminating the preventable deaths of mothers and children.”
The “Scaling Up Paediatric Nursing Care in Ghana” initiative builds on the success of a Canada-funded pilot project with SickKids that delivered innovative paediatric health worker training and strengthened the capacity of paediatric health systems in Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania between 2009 and 2014. This pilot also led to the establishment of the first specialized paediatric nursing training program at the University of Ghana.
Without trained paediatric nurses in Ghana prior to the project, more than 56,000 children under the age of five were succumbing annually to preventable diseases.
“Canadian training and the investment of a small amount of Canadian dollars have led to the survival of thousands of children in Ghana,” said Brown. “Over its five-year course, this new initiative is expected to do the same.”
Dr. Jemima Dennis-Antwi, the president of the Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives, said the investment will have an immediate impact.
“Nurses and midwives trained through this program will go on to become leaders in their communities and active advocates for child health,” she said.
Ghana was the first African country to receive development assistance from Canada in 1957 when the two countries established diplomatic relations.