IT is a long way yet, but the country can begin to appreciate progress made so far in the reduction of infant and maternal mortality rates in Zambia.
It is a relief because finally, we are beginning to receive statistics of how much improvement has been recorded in the health sector in terms of saving infants and mothers annually.
Central Statistical Office (CSO) yesterday announced a significant drop in maternal and child mortality rates from its 2013-2014 Demographic Health Survey (DHS).
Infant mortality has declined from 70 to 45 deaths per 1,000 live births. Under-five mortality declined from 119 per 1,000 live births, to 75 deaths.
Maternal mortality ratio is now 398 deaths per 100,000 live births from 591 in 2007.
CSO rightly pointed out that reduction of maternal mortality rates was partly because a higher number of women are now giving birth in health facilities.
Over the years, Government has moved to increase access to health facilities for women and children and this programme has received increased funding annually.
Historically, the mortality rates have been higher in rural areas, where citizens struggled to access health care.
Pregnant women have had to travel long distances from their homes to seek maternity and general health services because most communities do not have adequate health facilities.
In some cases, women have given birth while on their way to a clinic or rural health centre, thus putting themselves and the infants in harm’s way.
A recent report from Chilubi Island stated that some women on the island still accessed health care from the Democratic Republic of Congo, because the clinic there was closer than on the Zambian side.
These are some of the cases that Government has made a point to address through the construction of more than 600 health centres around the country.
Some of these centres are earmarked for areas that have never known health facilities and it will be the first time that such facilities are being availed to residents.
Though some places already have health facilities, they have not had sufficient health staff and in some instances, none at all.
It is why more health personnel have been employed and more are going to be engaged to man the new health facilities under construction and improve staffing levels in already-existing centres.
Government, through the ministry of Health, has also taken time to listen to citizens who have complained about the poor conduct of some health workers.
The poor conduct has in the past made some people to shun health facilities and this ultimately worked against the fight to reduce mortality rates.
Government should therefore not relent in its efforts in the health sector, now that people are able to appreciate the improvements through such encouraging statistics.
What is critical now is for measures to be put in place with regards safeguarding these health facilities and especially the drugs.
Recent reports of pilfering of drugs are not inspiring and if the country expects to maintain low figures of mortality rates, the vice needs to be nipped in the bud. OPINION