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

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid