Puntland steps up maternity care

29 June 2016

Twenty junior doctors in Puntland have begun attending a nine-month course on Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (CEmONC), as efforts to reduce maternal mortality intensify. CEmONC includes all basic maternity services and adds obstetric surgical capacity and blood transfusion.

The Puntland State of Somalia Ministry of Health launched the course on June 22 at an event attended by high-level government officials, representatives of the academia, civil society, private sector, professional associations and UN organisations.

At the end of the course, the 20 doctors will receive a diploma certifying them to provide CEmONC services and sign a letter reaffirming their commitment to return to their home districts to serve their own communities.

Puntland Minister of Health Dr. Abdinasir Osman Cuuke said at the launching ceremony that although a lot of work had been done to provide quality training to doctors, a CEmONC training initiative such as this should have been prioritised and implemented earlier.  He emphasised the need to ensure quality care for pregnant women.

“I am calling on the international community to continue investing in CEmONC capacity building and in hospitals,” said Dr. Cuuke.

He took note of the achievements that have already been made, including the availability of fully functional regional and district hospitals in Puntland.

The head of UNFPA Garowe sub-office Bakhtior Kadirov stated that the course was being supported under the Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP), which prioritises quality maternity care.

“No woman should die giving life. A country’s economic health and social harmony is measured in the health of its women,” said Kadirov.

He noted that according to the recent estimates by WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF & UN Population Division, Somalia has one of the highest lifetime risk of maternal deaths in the world, with women facing a 1 in 22 lifetime risk of maternal death. The maternal mortality ratio is estimated at 732 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Kadirov further noted that the medical technology to prevent almost all deaths from common obstetric complications has been available for half a century. “It is relatively simple and inexpensive. Many of the common obstetric complications can be managed before they become emergencies, and almost all can be treated even if they do become emergencies. One of the key interventions is access to emergency obstetric care,” said Kadirov.

The UNFPA head of office also stated that the SDG number 3 calls for achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and reducing global maternal death rates by 2030.

“Equity is at the heart of SDGs, which are based on the concept of leaving no one behind,” noted Kadirov.  

According to Kadirov, the Ministry of Health is highly committed to improving maternal health and that in 2015 alone Garowe and Galkayo hospitals assisted 6,128 deliveries, managed 2,392 obstetric complications and performed 422 caesarean sections. More than 10,000 beneficiaries received antenatal and postnatal care, birth counselling and services as a result of integrated community reproductive health outreach campaigns supported by UNFPA. He added that in the same year, three maternity waiting homes assisted more than 1100 deliveries, 8443 returnees and refugees from Yemen received reproductive health related information, counselling and services and that more than 70 fistula repairs were performed.

East Africa University is leading the CEmONC course. The director of the university Sheikh Mohamud Haji thanked the Ministry of Health, UN agencies, civil society and academia for making the training initiative a reality.

Sheikh Haji called on the stakeholders to create opportunities for such comprehensive and advanced training to more health professionals to fully meet the current unmet need for services. He expressed confidence that upon graduating, the trained junior doctors will contribute to improving quality CEmONC coverage in Puntland.

CEmONC training course instructor, Dr. Obsiye Elmi explained that the nine-month course will be on obstetrics in general, with a special focus on CEmONC services, comprising a three-month theoretical programme followed by practical sessions for six months.

The director of the Primary Health Care Department in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Abdirizak Abshir Hersi, congratulated the junior students for their selection into the CEmONC training course, saying many doctors had applied and that it was highly competitive.

Dr. Hersi stated that the Ministry of Health will continue to support the doctors even after graduation to ensure they are well equipped with the necessary tools and resources to use their new skills to their full potential.