Nana Kwame Oppong III, Chief of Jumapo in the New Juaben Traditional Area, has said the free maternal care policy should not be a license for parents to give birth to many children.

Nana  Oppong made the statement at the inauguration of the  Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for Women and Children Affairs (CONWAC) in  Koforidua.

He  cautioned students to desist from engaging in pre-marital sex which can end up making them parents when they are  not prepared to shoulder such responsibilities.

He commended government for the sustenance of the maternal health care policy, and urged heath authorities to ensure that the policy is implemented to the satisfaction of the people.

In a speech read on her behalf, Mrs Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Health, said the development of women and children continues to be the most important aspect of every national plan and global agenda.

Mrs Ayittey said in view of  women?s central role in production and reproduction, their importance as both agents and beneficiaries of socio-economic development of the country cannot be overemphasized.

She said it was due to the important role of women in society that her ministry was looking beyond the traditional health system and addressing the broader determinants of ill health, including high risk behaviours and unhealthy environments, as well as raising the profile of health within national poverty reduction and government reform processers.

Mrs Ayitey said although the health status of Ghanaians as measured by mortality, fertility and nutritional indices has improved these years, the improvement has been slow, compared to other countries  in the Eastern and Southern Africa.

Ms Jane Kwapong, Regional Director of the  Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, said the conditions of a child?s birth and the environment in which the child spends the first few years of its life, is critical in determining his or her survival, healthy growth and development.

She said accesses to good nutrition, water and sanitation services are vital to every child?s survival and development.

Ms Kwapong said it is for  those reasons that the choices made and actions taken on behalf of children during this critical period affect not only the proper development of the child, but also the positive progression of the entire country, since children form the future human resource of any nation.

Therefore, she noted that any nation that wants to strengthen and develop its future human resource base, should invest in the health of its children.

She said since mother-to-child transmission of HIV is virtually the only way that young children under five years of age can be infected with HIV, it is important to adhere to interventions to reduce, or totally prevent transmission from the infected pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, to their children.

In a solidarity message from Dr. Hari Krishna Banskota on behalf of the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), he commended Ghana for recording a progressive decline in HIV prevalence in the general population which currently stands at 1.37 per cent.

He said more than 70 per cent of identified HIV infected pregnant women are currently getting the required antiretroviral prophylaxis.

?This means that Ghana is steadily moving towards achieving the elimination target by 2015?.

He said the stigma and discrimination against HIV positive women and their children is having a negative impact on the elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of the HIV.

He urged NGOs like CONWAC, to play a pivotal role in reducing the stigma and discrimination, through providing accurate information and organizing campaigns for stigma reduction.
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Source: GNA

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