The NEWS (Monrovia)

5 December 2012

Liberia: 20 Journalists Get Training in Maternal Health

The Press Union of Liberia (PUL), with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFAP), has completed a two-day training workshop for journalists to report on maternal mortality and related health complications in the country.

Twenty print and broadcast journalists from Montserrado, Bong, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and Grand Bassa Counties participated in training which took place in Monrovia.

Facilitators from UNFPA and the Mass Communications Department of the University of Liberia presented several topics on maternal health and mortality and how the media can effectively highlight associated challenges in their reporting to stimulate state actors and policymakers.

Maternal mortality describes the conditions of pregnant women (covering from the day they get pregnant to six weeks after they give birth), and Liberia is reported to have one of the highest maternal death rates.

Every day, about four women die in pregnancy or childbirth in Liberia. Liberia's high maternal death rate of 994 per 100,000 lives birth is an indicator of an inadequate health care system, with poor quality of care and limited access to services, something which necessitated the workshop to empower journalists to report on the sector.

As part of the workshop, journalists visited the Star of the Sea Health Center in West Point to hear and see for themselves the challenges women face and the need for pregnant women to visit health centers not only for checkups but for deliveries.

Participants learnt that the risk and rate of complications and of maternal death in Liberia could be sharply cut down if pregnant women go to health centers to give birth.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, the Communication Director of UNFPA Calixte Hessou lauded the PUL for successfully hosting the workshop and challenged the participants to use the knowledge to develop interest in reporting maternal health issues.

Mr. Hessou encouraged journalists to develop interest and be fascinated about reporting on challenges in the maternal health sector of the country because it is something that effects everyone.

He disclosed that the UNFPA is intending working with the PUL to set up awards and prizes for journalists who do the best coverage on maternal health and related issues.

PUL President Peter Quaqua in closing remarks, observed that Liberian is faced with serious maternal health problems and those who need to take decision to solve the problem do not seem to be paying attention. The media, he stated, has the responsibility to raise awareness through the report that will compel government and other policymakers to salvage the situation.

"We have to bring the situation to public attention and hold accountable those being paid taxpayers' money to reduce the number of maternal mortality deaths," the PUL President indicated, adding, "it is only you journalists that must tell the stories of the suffering people of our population."

He said the PUL looks forward to finding support to include awards/prizes to recognize journalists who devote their time reporting on the health care delivery system of the country.

Pauline Panyene of the Liberia Women Democracy Radio, on behalf of participants, applauded both the PUL and UNFPA for the training provided and indicated that with the new knowledge, they would strive to make a difference in highlighting maternal health issues at their respective work places.

Meanwhile, participants of the workshop have unanimously agreed to establish the Reporters Network in highlighting the challenges in the health sector especially with pregnancy women.

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