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 Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora