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 Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa 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.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs