By Aisha Tamba
Statistician General Nyakassi Sanyang has said the new Demographic Health Survey, DHS, revealed that women’s health has improved in the last few years.
He said the survey, which was a two-year-long project, has shown some encouraging news regarding women and children’s health.
“Many aspects of health are improving in The Gambia. As of the 2019-20 survey, only 18% of children are stunted, which is a sign of chronic malnutrition. This is a reduction from 25% in 2013. Women’s health has also improved. More women are using family planning and accessing health care during pregnancy and delivery.
“Of course, there are also areas in which we are disappointed to see little change. Childhood mortality, for example, has not declined since 2013. And while ownership of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) has increased, use of ITNS among children and pregnant women has not. It is my hope that the results of this survey spur us to double our efforts in these areas, and to continue the progress realised in recent years,” Mr Sanyang noted.
He was speaking at the launch of the survey last week.
Also speaking, Vice President Dr Isatou Touray said the new survey shows in many ways that the health situation in the country has improved since the Barrow government came in 2016.
She added that the fertility rate has decreased, more women are delivering in health facilities, more children are vaccinated, and children’s nutritional status has improved. “But there is no room for complacency as we still have much work to do. Although women’s use of family planning has increased since 2013, still only 17% of married women are using a modern method of family planning, and many have unmet needs. Despite important improvements in child health, childhood mortality has not made a much significant decline since 2013,” she said.
Health Minister, Dr Ahmadou Samateh admitted that neonatal and under-5 mortality rates are not going down due to facility challenges. “But I think it is also a pointer that when we go to the Minister of Finance and the partners and we say we need more neonatal units in the country, I think they will believe us because the evidence has shown it. When we say we need more incubators, I think they will listen to us because the evidence is there. When we say the country needs more neonatologists to be trained, I think they will believe us because the evidence is there. So it is obvious why we have these challenges as a country. We do not have any Gambian neonatologist; we have two technical assistants. When we talk about neonatal nurses, it is a similar thing, these are special areas,” he added.