UNICEF committed to improving living conditions for children

by Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
September 18, 2000

MR JUAN Espinola, Assistant Representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has said that UNICEF is committed to supporting any initiative from the social sector in Guyana to improve the living conditions of children here.

"This is a commitment that is not going to fade away," he assured. "It is a commitment that is getting stronger every day as we watch the situation in Guyana," he reiterated.

The UNICEF envoy pronounced these words of encouragement as he addressed a gathering of doctors, nurses, Regional Health Officers and Supervisors from the ten Regions of Guyana last week. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of a three-day programme for Maternal and Child Health and an Expanded programme of Evaluation held in the Boardroom of the Ministry of Health, Brickdam, last week.

The highlight of the programme was the launching by Minister of Health and Labour, Henry Jeffrey, of two manuals crucial to the operations of the Labour Ward and aimed at arresting the worrying figures representing maternal and infant mortality rates in hospital Labour Wards.

The Manuals launched were, "The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Manual 2000" and "The Labour Ward Protocol Manual".

These publications will help to place the Ministry of Health in a better position to deal with the problems of Maternal and Child Health, and ultimately bring about a reduction in Maternal and Infant mortality rates. These phenomena over the past years have posed a serious challenge to the local health sector.

Resource persons at the Evaluation Programme included Dr. Rudolph Cummings, Chief Medical Officer; Dr. Janice Woolford, Head of the Maternal and Child Health Department of the Georgetown Hospital; Dr. M.Y. Bacchus and Dr. G. Roberts through whose instrumentality, the MCH Manual - a vastly upgraded version of one first attempted 20 years ago - was put together.

The 114-page MCH Manual deals comprehensively with maternal and child health and covers aspects of both pre and post-maternal care. It was published under the theme "The Health of our Mothers and Children is the wealth of our nation - Let's make mothers and children the healthiest in the Caribbean."

Meanwhile, the 59-page Labour Ward Protocol deals with problems for both normal and complicated cases.

Dr. Jeffrey, in acknowledging that the issue of maternal and Child Health is of major importance to every single health sector in the world, said that one of the ways in which the health sector of any country is judged is by the death rates of its infant and mothers.

Thanks to those who have been involved in the preparation of the manual, as well as those working in the Maternal and Child Health departments for the conscious effort being made at stemming a problem (even with limited resources), he said, a downward trend has been recorded in the such figures recently.

Even while Minister Jeffrey reported that maternal deaths had reduced from 190 per 100,000 in 1995 to 99.4 in 1999, and the Infant Mortality rate was 34.9 in 1995 as compared to 22.9 in 1999, the international community had different figures to quote of Guyana's infant mortality rate in 1999.

Minister Jeffrey said that this is a disparity which needs to be cleared up, since the figures indicated by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) for Guyana's infant mortality rate was 58 per thousand deaths in 1999 and not 22.9 as indicated by the Ministry of Health in Guyana.

Meanwhile, in her brief remarks on the MCH Manual 2000, Dr Woolford said that it was first prepared and put to use in 1973, with subsequent updatings commencing 20 years later in 1992. The final copy was started in October 1999 and completed in August 2000 she said.

She noted that the purpose of the manual is to provide information and guidance to MCH workers, thus enabling them to perform their functions effectively and efficiently.

Dr Woolford acknowledged the sterling contribution given by the international community including PAHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for their technical support. She thanked doctors and nurses and all others who contributed to the publication of the manuals.

Dr Roberts expressed satisfaction that Guyana was able to make such progress, noting that for the last 20 years the University of the West Indies in Jamaica has been trying without success to come up with such a manual for use at the University Hospital.

Two years ago, Dr Roberts said, on his return to Guyana, the maternal death of a nurse at the Georgetown Hospital dealt the institution a devastating blow, ultimately bringing about a renewed zeal for a comprehensive study to be done, with a determination to achieve success.

The original draft was prepared by Dr. Roberts, with the assistance of Dr. M. Y. Bacchus, Dr. Gibour and staff of the Labour Ward.

Adding that the manual would need to be updated over time, Dr. Roberts proudly asserted: "This is the work of the Georgetown Hospital Labour Ward. I think it can work, and it will work."

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