Liberia: UNFPA, Swedish Embassy’s Interventions Leading to Reduction of Maternal Mortality In Nimba

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MONROVIA – Health workers in Bahn, Nimba County said since the construction and dedication of a maternal waiting room at the Bahn Health Center, there has been no report of maternal death at the facility.

Bahn is one of the most populated settlements in Nimba, the second most populous counties in Liberia. The health center has 28 catchment communities and provided health services to the thousands of Ivorian refugees stationed there for nearly two decades.

The authority of the health center made the disclosure to a high-profiled delegation comprising of the officials of the Swedish Embassy, UNFPA and the Ministry of Health that visited the area recently.

The team comprised the Deputy Head of Mission and head of the Swedish Development Corporation at the Swedish Embassy Johan Romare, the new Country Representative of UNFPA, Ms. Bidisha Pillai and the Assistant Health Minister for Curative Services Dr. Gorbee Logan. Others include officials of the British Embassy and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

Last week, the team conducted a joint field visit to sponsored project sites in Margibi, Bong and Nimba Counties to get firsthand accounts from the beneficiaries about the projects’ impacts, challenges that hindering their full utilization or implementation and recommendations.

With 1,072 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births, Liberia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, according to UNICEF. The mortality rate of newborns, within the first 28 days of life, is also high—37 for every 1,000 live births.

To curb this, the Government of Liberia and its partners have adopted several strategies, and one of it is the support to Maternal Child Health (MCH) programs. Through the program, the government banned home delivery by traditional midwives and along with its partners, set up maternal waiting rooms at major health facilities, mostly in rural areas, to host pregnant women nearing their delivery period. These women stay at the centers and are taken care of by nurses and professional midwives until they deliver safely.

The Bahn maternal waiting room is a hybrid center uniquely build and providing basic healthcare to pregnant women. The MCH, comprises of eight bedrooms, nursing station and delivery rooms that has played a major role in reducing maternal deaths in the area.

The Officer-in-Charge of the Health Center, Festus Yormie said since the dedication of the waiting room in September 2021, 299 pregnant women have registered at the center, and out of the number, there have been 280 safe delivery with no death recorded.

The health center’s management disclosed that the facility is providing health services to a huge population in its 28 catchment communities and the Ivorian refugees; adding with the intervention of the UNFPA project, there have been increased awareness on sexual gender based violence in the community.

Despite these numerous achievements, Yormie named several challenges currently affecting the facility; among them- lack of regular feeding for pregnant women, something that have driven patients to other community clinics.

He also told the visiting guests that the health center is lack of employed staff as most of the workers are volunteers, and key among the challenges include limited drug supply by the Ministry of Health through the County Health Team based in Sanniquellie.

Health records showed there have been 11 cases of domestic violence, prompting health officials to call for support towards creating more awareness in the community to break the entrenched cultural belief and practices.

The delegation thanked the hospital’s management for the sacrifices in the midst of several challenges.

Earlier on, the team visited the E and J Medical Center and had a brief interaction with the hospital’s administration and DKT International that is collaborating with the facilities to provide contraceptives for adolescent girls and boys.

The supervisor of the MCH department Madam Julie Doe said more young people are turning out for the contraceptives, but the major challenges are the myths and misconceptions; with some are of the wrong beliefs that the contraceptives have harmful effects.

Visit to Bahn Resettlement Camp

As part of the tour in Bahn, the delegation visited the former Bahn Refugee Camp, now transformed to the Bahn Resettlement Center and met with several former refugees who have integrated in the community.

At a town hall meeting, the beneficiaries lauded the Swedish Government and its implementing partners for providing shelter for them, but called for support towards their children’s education and funding for sustaining their livelihoods.

When the refugee camp closed down, these Ivoirians decided to stay and make Liberia their home. To accommodate them, Plan International and UNFPA, with funding from the Swedish Government constructed 25 housing units.

At a town hall meeting, the beneficiaries lauded the Swedish Government and its implementing partners for providing shelter for them, but called for support towards their children’s education and funding for sustaining their livelihoods.

Speaking on behalf of the women, Rita Gailah thanked the donors for the support so far but said they there are gaps that needed to be filled during the integration process. She said all of the services that were once provided by the UNHCR have all gone away, and leaving them in total shock.

Doumbia Musa, the beneficiaries’ spokesperson hailed the delegation for the support and appealed for electricity through the supply of solar panels.

In response, UNFPA Country Representative, Ms. Bidisha Pillai thanked the residents for the reception and expressed hope that the structures built will provide safety for them, especially the women and children. She added it was good that they have integrated into the community.

From Mat to Mattress

Meanwhile, the team visited the Kolakeh Peace hut women in Ganta. The women, with funding from the Swedish Embassy are engaged into basic live skill empowerment and advocacy activities.

 Madam Annie Flomo, an official of the group thanked UNFPA and Sweden for the opportunity, saying, through the support, the elevated from mat to mattress.

According to her, they were victims of all forms of domestic violence and excluded from decision making in their communities, but through the peace hut activities, they can speak for themselves and participate in decision making.

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