NASG launched to enhance maternal health care in PNG

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PORT MORESBY, 12 March 2019 – National Department of Health in partnership with Obstetrics & Gynecology Society, UNICEF and the Australian Government will introduce the Non-pneumatic Anti Shock Garment (NASG) to enhance maternal health care in Papua New Guinea. The NASG is a pilot initiative of our “Saving Lives Spreading Smiles (SLSS)” project, supported by the Australian Government, to improve the management of post-partum hemorrhage towards reduction of high maternal mortality in PNG.

Papua New Guinea has taken important steps forward over the past decade, with the maternal mortality rate declining from 258 per 100,000 live births in 2008 to 215 per 100,000 live births in 2015. However, this rate remains significantly higher than the average for the East Asia and Pacific region (59 per 100,000 live births) and the Pacific Islands small states (75 per 100,000 live births).

The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy for a woman in PNG is 1 in every 120 women, which amounts to around 2,000 women per year.

Obstetric Hemorrhage (OH) is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (deaths from pregnancy and childbirth related complications) in which a woman bleeds heavily, most often immediately after giving birth. A woman can bleed to death in two hours or less, and in rural areas where hospitals may be days away, there is little hope for women suffering from severe bleeding. Additionally, resource-constrained health centers and hospitals may not have the staff or supplies needed to save a women’s life. Women die waiting for the much-needed treatment.

Emerging technologies are currently being researched and implemented to prevent these unnecessary deaths. An example of such innovative initiative is the NASG. The NASG is a low-tech first aid device used to stabilize women who are suffering from severe bleeding and shock. This simple device helps women survive delays in getting to a hospital and getting the treatment they need. It decreases blood loss, helps women recover from shock and keeps them alive while they are traveling to a hospital or awaiting treatment. Any health worker or volunteer who has had a short simple training on how to use the device can apply it.

“Our government is focused on reducing the high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. The situation which has been the case for far too long is unacceptable and it is time we do things differently. No women should die to give life and every baby born is a life we should fight to save. NASG is a highly cost-effective intervention and our Government is committed to provide these garments to all health facilities conducting deliveries to save our mothers,” the Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS, Hon. Sir Puka Temu said.

Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG, Bruce Davis, said Australia is committed to supporting the PNG Government to improve maternal, newborn and child health. “Australia has a strong and enduring partnership with PNG. For PNG to thrive, we need to do more to help women survive childbirth so they can be part of raising healthy families and strong communities. Through this investment and others, Australia is proud to support the Government of PNG to achieve its ambitions of lowering maternal mortality rates.”

“UNICEF PNG is very grateful for this support that will help the Government of PNG to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths by promoting simple cost effective and life-saving practices e.g. Bebi Kol Kilok, NASG, Management of Retinopathy of Prematurity that are crucial for mothers and newborns to survive. I am happy that through NASG not only the mothers will be saved, but also we will be able to reduce the maternal morbidity. For every woman who dies, there are 30 women who suffer a disability because of pregnancy or childbirth related complications. These can be serious, lifelong, ailments, which compromise a women’s health, productivity, quality of life, family health and her ability to participate in community life. If a mother dies after childbirth, the likelihood of the newborn dying is also much greater. Maternal death and disability means hardships and loss of productivity for families, communities and nations.” said UNICEF Representative, David Mcloughlin.

The support from the Australian Government will enable UNICEF PNG to work with the PNG Government to strengthen local capacity in hospitals and health facilities deliver the package of maternal and newborn care, assess and remove bottlenecks in the delivery of maternal and newborn care services and empower communities with skills to continue care at home.UNICEF, in collaboration with the Department of Health, will work directly with provincial health authorities/offices, the district authorities, church health services and local non-government organizations to roll out the NASG, as part of Saving Lives- Spreading Smiles’ project in all 620 health facilities conducting deliveries.

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