By Dipo Olowookere
GE Healthcare and Amref Health Africa today announced a framework agreement that aims to develop a range of in-country health care service collaborations across reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, non-communicable diseases, water, sanitation and hygiene and safe surgery.
Initially, Amref Health Africa and GE will work together with Intrahealth and Project HOPE on a new program in Ethiopia, where GE will provide medical equipment at 20 health centres and 4 primary hospitals to widen access to antenatal screenings, essential newborn care and to up skill health workers.
The technology will include portable ultrasound for antenatal screening, baby warmers, anaesthesia and resuscitation equipment used during childbirth and phototherapy devices which help mitigate jaundice in babies.
Through a focus on task-shifting, health workers such as midwives who operate in remote communities where access to medically trained personnel is often limited or non-existent, will be taught essential skills to perform additional tasks such as antenatal scans, ensuring that critical, potentially life-saving services are available to the most at-risk patients.
Amref Health Africa is the largest non-governmental organization founded and based in Africa and has more than 60 years’ experience in health development. GE Healthcare is a leading global provider of healthcare technology and services and brings more than 100 years’ experience in the continent. The collaboration allows the partners to develop new in-country programs that will combine their respective technical expertise, capacity building know-how and ability to convene large-scale funding into programs.
The new GE program with Amref Health Africa will build on results from a 6-month GE pilot during which 22 NICU nurses and paediatricians were trained on the provision of essential newborn care. It showed a 24% reduction in facility-based neo-natal mortality, from 82 in every 1000 admissions to 62 in every 1000 admissions.
The study was conducted by the Ethiopian Paediatric Association in consultation with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health for Ethiopia, at four sites across Ethiopia, and involved more than 2,400 neonates. It also showed a 50% reduction in patient referrals and a 1-day reduction in overall hospital length of stay after an NICU intervention to 7 days.
“Amref Health Africa stands at the forefront of creating stronger community-based health systems that ensure access to quality health services for all. Training health workers on essential skills for mother and child health is a key component of addressing the high rates of maternal, newborn and child mortality that still exists in far too many communities,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.
“Strengthening primary care and the broader referral system is an essential building block towards the attainment of universal health coverage in Africa,” said Farid Fezoua, President and CEO, GE Healthcare Africa. “To that end, Amref Health Africa – as a proven and trusted partner in African healthcare, has been at the forefront of primary care development. Leveraging their unique insights and local know-how is an important step in GE’s plan to contribute meaningfully to the reduction of preventable maternal and child mortality.”
He added: “Our approach combines relevant technologies, skills development and localized service delivery into one scalable deployment model. Early pilots have shown promising results and together with Amref Health Africa and our other implementation partners, we have a dedicated and local team monitoring and evaluating these programs to share learnings across the continent.”
Today there are more than a dozen GE Healthcare programs in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Sierra Leone aimed at reducing preventable maternal and infant mortality underway together with a range of implementation partners. With a plan to deliver more than 20 such initiatives with several partners including Amref Health Africa, GE aims to reach 3.5 million expectant women, mothers and new-borns and train over 3,000 primary healthcare workers by 2020.
According to WHO, approximately 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with maternal mortality higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
Almost all maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The situation remains challenging for infants and newborns. While the total number of under-five deaths dropped to 5.6 million in 2016 from 12.6 million in 1990, 7,000 newborns still die every day, according to UNICEF.
In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 1 child in 13 dies before his or her fifth birthday, while in the world’s high-income countries the ratio is 1 in 189.
One target under Sustainable Development Goal 3 is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 births, with no country having a maternal mortality rate of more than twice the global average. To that end, skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies according to WHO.
Amref Health Africa has a strong regional presence, working with over 100 poor and marginalized rural and urban slum communities as well as district health authorities and Ministries of Health and Education in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; pioneering experience in community based healthcare – emphasizing community ownership of projects and programs to encourage sustainability; and extensive experience in health development training targeted at a diverse range of health professionals from primary healthcare workers to field surgeons.
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