News / Africa

Liberia's Sirleaf Tackles One of Africa's Highest Maternal Death Rates

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf ran for election in 2006 with the nation's high maternal death rate on her mind. She is now taking action, according to officials.
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf ran for election in 2006 with the nation's high maternal death rate on her mind. She is now taking action, according to officials.
Upon assuming the presidency in 2006, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf promised to tackle many national problems made worse by a decade of civil war. One of her goals was to curtail the maternal death rate, which has soared to 994 out of every 100,000 live births.

Liberia’s maternal death rate remains among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, but the government is trying to change that. This year, President Sirleaf announced that reducing maternal deaths was among her government’s top priorities.

“The ministry of health developed the essential package of health services which describes maternal health interventions at both community level and health facilities level,” says Tolbert Nyenswah, deputy minister of health for preventive services. The deputy minister says he is “hearing some positive news about maternal mortality reduction in our country.”

Government expands service to mothers and children

Nyenswah names some of the practical steps being taken to protect the lives of pregnant women. He encourages women to seek at least four medical visits before the delivery date to receive needed services such as immunizations.
 
Eva Flomo's interviews on challenges for maternal health reform
Eva Flomo's interviews on challenges for maternal health reformi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“Institutional delivery is improving in Liberia, as compared to from 1990. Right now our institutional delivery has increased.” Tolbert also urges medical services after the birth for the mother, the new infant and other children in the family for preventive treatment for malaria visits.

Women are also given vaccinations for tetanus and for malaria, he says, which can lead to still births, under-weight babies and even the death of the mother.  The government has also expanded access to family planning services to 20 percent of all couples, nearly twice the prior rate.

It is also taking measures to curb complications that can endanger the lives of the mother and baby.

“We have increased services to EMOC - that is, emergency obstetric care and centers - that can provide Cesarean section and other services to mothers. But this cannot be done alone by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia.

"We are integrating with other ministries and agencies including the national legislature, the ministry of rural development … because of the chiefs and the traditional people in the villages. You know, institutional delivery has increased but there are still 40 percent of people that are still delivering in the facilities and to account for that.”

Promoting traditional birth attendants

Another solution to curbing maternal deaths relies on traditional birth attendants. Miatta Fahnbulleh, the government-appointed goodwill ambassador on maternal health in Liberia, describes the support for traditional birth attendants.

“What the ministry of health and social welfare has discovered is that we have our traditional midwives, women who through generations have been giving birth to women. So, why do we not enhance their skills? Why do we not give them the tools to work with? Why don’t we give them the information, the basics to help us to reduce that? 

"Because really, I don’t see how we can build enough clinics. We don’t have enough doctors, there are not enough nurses.  So … we must rely on the community and trained traditional midwives.”

Dr. Odell Kume, the chief medical officer of Maryland County, says the government has reopened a school to train midwives for the southeastern region in Zwedru.  Upon graduation, the birth attendants serve at various clinics within the county for two years.  A referral center is available for cases they can not handle.

Midwives are also being trained in Bomi County in Western Liberia.  

Dr. Gorbee Logan, the chief medical officer of the regional government hospital, says doctors work closely and meet once a month with trained traditional midwives (TTM).

‘More doctors on the ground’

“You know this whole issue of maternal mortality, it has cultural beliefs and practices associated with it,” Logan says. “Our people believe that the best people to go to … are the traditional birth attendants.” Doctors “use that opportunity to also train them as well, tell them the danger signs of pregnancy, tell them that facility-based delivery is what the government wants. And every pregnant woman coming by their way, you know, should be referred to the hospital.”

Meetings are also held with commissioners, town chiefs and other influential people who help encourage health care among local women.   “And, there are now more doctors on the ground to handle emergency referrals from traditional birth attendants,” he says.

Logan cites other improvement by the government: new ambulances bring women to maternal clinic,  and new and improved health facilities have been built in Maryland County in southeastern Liberia.  

“We have 24 health facilities,” says Dr. Odell Kumeh of Maryland County and most of them are run by the government. Others are for Catholics and for the Cavallah Rubber Corporation.

The local medical community now anticipates funding for maternal waiting homes for people who live far from the clinic. “If they are nearing delivery, they move there and we have people there to monitor them.” If there are complications, they are transferred to a hospital.  “We actually need to do that in Maryland County because we don’t have any maternal waiting home in the county.”

Health care specialists say there are many steps to making childbirth safer for Liberians, including better reproductive health education for girls. Some of the changes are already underway to meet the U.N. Development Goals reducing Liberia’s maternal death rate by three-quarters by 2015.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: portugal
June 05, 2014 10:12 AM
give the people right indidually the life liberty and felicity Liberia

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs