By Christiana Saywah-Jimmy
Despite a high fertility rate of 6.2 percent, it is reported that Liberia still faces numerous challenges in improving its health care delivery system with the international health organizations’ report putting maternal mortality at 770/100,000 live birth in the country.
However, Save the Children, a British sponsored organization continues to partner with the government of Liberia in reducing risks that are associated with mother to child care and maternal mortality especially hard-to-reach communities.
With the turning over of the Harrisburg Community Maternal Waiting Home recently, over 3,000 community dwellers can now be safe to have their children as well as their mothers give birth at the local clinic with the assurance of getting better outcome of their pregnancies.
The Program Manager of Liberia Prevention of Maternal Mortality at the Ministry of Health, Nancy Moses outlined the causes of maternal mortality as due to hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia; prolonged/obstructed labor; sepsis and unsafe abortion.
Madam Moses said the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications is one out of 20; while teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortion are prevalent and access to basic health services remains at 40 percent.
Giving the breakdown in health care delivery in the country, Madam Moses said access to quality maternal and neonatal health case is still very low and that about 25 percent of the births occur outside health facilities and by unskilled birth attendants.
She named the improvement of midwifery education to curtail the brain drain of such birth attendants as one of the major strategies put in place by the Liberian government to reduce the high maternal mortality and to promote the retention of the midwives to other professions for higher education.
She said the government is partnering with Save the Children in undertaking significant investment in the operation and construction and maintenance of the maternal waiting homes so as to increase such facilities and reduce birth delays at the community levels.
Presently, the Harrisburg Maternal Waiting Home brings to four the number of maternal waiting homes constructed by Save the Children in Margibi and Montserrado Counties respectively.
Maternal waiting homes are residential facilities located near a qualified medical facility where women can await delivery or get transferred should complications arise. The intent of the waiting homes especially in rural communities is that more women from remote communities could access birthing faculties if they could wait for the onset of labor in a maternal waiting home.
Save the Children’s aim of delving in such initiative is to assist the national government’s health delivery sector especially in the areas of maternal and prenatal mortality by improving access to skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care.
The organization’s health program is supported by the Department For International Development (DFID) based in the United Kingdom and is currently making impact in seven of the 15 counties across Liberia.
This program is operated under the Save the Children ‘Every One’ Campaign while the construction project is named, “Built for Babies” and is geared towards addressing the Millennium Development Goals four and five for Liberia.