14 baby deaths a day in W. Java
The West Java provincial administration is desperately trying to stem the tide of newborn-baby deaths in the region, which has one of the highest neonatal and maternal mortality rates in the country.
West Java Health Agency head Alma Lucyati said that 837 mothers and 5,201 newborns died in the province last year.
“There are 14 newborns and two mothers giving birth who die every day in West Java,” Alma said on the sidelines of the launch of the USAID’s expanding maternal and neonatal survival (EMAS) program in Bandung on Wednesday.
She said that West Java and five other provinces contributed to over 50 percent of neonatal and maternal deaths across the country, raising concerns that the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 2015 would not be achieved.
“The province needs special treatments to deal with this issue,” she said.
She added that the provincial administration had tried to address the issue by increasing the health budget by 10 percent, compared to last year, and improve health facilities, especially the basic emergency neonatal obstetrics community health centers (PONED). It also implemented the “one doctor for one subdistrict” policy.
“Still, the figures remain high,” she said.
Health Ministry secretary-general Ratna Rosita Hendardji said hard work was really needed to address the problem. She also cited the importance of being innovative.
“The death of mothers in families is a national tragedy,” she said.
She added that discussion over the deaths of 228 out of 100,000 mothers during birth and the deaths of 34 in every 1,000 newborns would remain purely academic if nothing was done to prevent the deaths.
West Java Deputy Governor Dede Yusuf, who officially launched the program, said that the province has established 50 new PONED facilities from CSR programs and would run a total of 273 units until 2011 in a bid to widen health services in the province. This excludes services provided by 174 community health centers (Puskesmas) spread across the province.
Dede said it was important to change the public’s mindsets to make the program a success.
“Nutrition, local beliefs saying that having many kids will also mean bigger earnings and early marriages have all been obstacles in the field,” he said.
Separately, the EMAS program’s chief of party, Anne Hyre, said that the program would also be rolled out to the five other provinces that contributed more than half of all neonatal and maternal deaths.
They are Banten, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi and North Sumatra.
Pregnancies, according to Hyre, could pose serious health threats due to late medical assistance, bleeding and infection.
“We want to give knowledge on how to improve health quality, save babies’ and mothers’ lives and use reference systems in the maternal process,” she said.
This, she added, was aimed at helping decrease neonatal and maternal deaths by 25 percent nationally within the next five years.
For West Java, she said, they would focus on the Bandung and Cirebon regencies in the first year, before spreading to Karawang, Indramayu and Bogor later on.
US Ambassador to Indonesia, Scot Marciel, said that for over 40 years his country had supported Indonesia in health, family planning and neonatal and maternal death management that has been previously implemented through the Desa Siaga (Alert Village) program.
He welcomed his government’s US$55 million in aid to support the EMAS program for the next five years to help Indonesia achieve the MDGs.
“This is a new, comprehensive program conducted between two big democratic countries in an equal partnership to reduce mother and baby deaths,” said Marciel.