The Analyst (Monrovia)

3 July 2014

Liberia: AFRICARE Combats Maternal Death in Bong

Gbarnga — In an apparent effort to reduce maternal mortality in Bong County, AFRICARE-Liberia has completed the construction of the 7th maternal waiting homes in the County.

The latest waiting home was constructed in Handii, Fuamah District under the Child Survival Project with support from the Japanese Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project.

The first six homes were constructed in Zabay and Yeila in Kpaii District, Belemue in Panta District and Janjay in Jorquelleh District.

The other two on the Compound of the Phebe Hospital and at the Salala Health Center in lower Bong County.

According to Africare Country Director Mr. Earnest Gaie, the six homes were funded by USAID under the ARROW Project.

Mr. Gaie said the maternity homes were constructed after a survey that established that most pregnant women encountered complication during delivery at community clinics due to late transfer by Traditional Birth Attendants operating in towns and villages.

Mr. Gaie indicated that the homes are constructed in communities with clinics and are used as residential facility for pregnant women that are not inhabitants of the host clinic community until delivery.

“We allow pregnant women from our sponsored Clinics catchment communities and others with potential complication during delivery to stay in our various maternal homes from seven months to delivery before they return home,” the AFRICARE Country Director stated.

He said significant improvement has being realized in responding to maternal health in Bong County since AFRICARE initiated the construction of maternal homes in communities it has clinics.

Continuing that there is an unprecedented decline in home delivery by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) in various towns and villages where AFRICARE operates in the county He as a result of this initiative, Mr. Gaie noted that Africare has also realized an increase in referral from clinics to the next level of care for pregnant women at the Phebe and C.B. Dunbar maternal hospital.

He praised the effort of traditional birth attendants for their resilient effort in supporting the campaign to reduce maternal mortality in the county.

Mr. Gaie said AFRICARE is succeeding in reducing maternal death due to the cooperation and commitment of the traditional midwives working in their catchment communities. “These traditional midwives are real partners to our work,” he said.

The AFRICARE boss encouraged Trained Traditional Midwives (TTMS) and residents of Fuamah District to take advantage of the health facilities to further strengthen the fight against maternal death and reduce the barriers to health facility delivery.

As part of effort to further motivate the traditional birth attendance, Mr. Gaie said AFRICARE empower the TTMS through livelihood programs like Tailoring and tie and dye amongst others. He said following the training said the midwives produce bed sheets for the homes and other items which enables them to generate to money for themselves.

The Handii Maternal waiting home has seven rooms of which six are intended for pregnant women and one for the assigned Registered Nurse at the Handii clinic. The building also comprises two inside bath rooms and an outdoor kitchen facility. The project is estimated at U.S $ 56,000.

Speaking at the dedication, the Chief of staff and Director of Communications and Development Africare, Washington office Kendra E. Davenport said she was grateful for the progress made by Africare in the fight against maternal death in the Liberia.

Madam Davenport who is currently in the country on an assessment visit said, she is impressed with responses from community residents of Africare intervention areas to improve human security and access to health care and the reduction of maternal death in the country. She encouraged the community residents especially the Trained Traditional Midwives to continue the partnership in the fight against maternal death in Liberia.

In his remarks, the head of the Bong County Health Team Dr. Sampson Azuakoi described the homes construction as great achievement in the fight against maternal death in the county.

Dr. Azuakoi said the construction of the maternal waiting homes has further enhanced access to health facility delivery in the county. He said as part of its support to the county health system, Africare has also renovated several clinics including the Dekei clinic in Fuamah district, provision of motorcycles, drugs and incentives for support staff.

The Bong County Heath Team boss said Africare is supporting thirty eight clinics including the Outside Patient Department of the Phebe and C.B Dunbar Hospitals in the County.

Dr. Azuakoi named the facility as the Salala health center, the Handii Clinic, Yeila and Zebay Clinics, Janjay clinic, Kpaii clinic, Belemue clinic, Fenutolee Clinic and Neema Clinic amongst others.

He said the County Health Team cherished the Africare support to the health system and will continue to work with the organization in meeting the health needs of the people in Bong County.

Dr. Azuakoi told community residents who attended the ceremony that the essence of the maternal waiting home is to make available access to traditional birth attendants and pregnant to women and they must support the center by bringing all their pregnant there to easily access the clinic before and after delivery.

Dr. Azuakoi also praised Representative Corpu Barclay for her support to the Handii Clinic and other health facilities in Fuamah district. He especially thanked Representative Barclay for the recent supply of drugs to the Handii Clinic.

Also attending the dedicatory ceremony of the Handii Maternal Waiting Home, Bong County Legislative Caucus Chairman Senator Henry Yallah and Representative Corpu Barclay thanked the Japanese Government for the assistance to Liberia recovery process.

Senator Yallah and Representative Barclay said despite the global economic hardship, the people of Japan continued to support Liberia's development Agenda.

The two Bong County Lawmakers also thanked Africare and the County Health Team for improvement of health services in the county.

Speaking on the issues of health workers, Senator Yallah and Representative Barclay praised nurses in the country for services to continue offer despite inadequate incentives and other benefits.

Senator Yallah and Representative Barclay stressed the need for the construction of Nurses quarters to support the concept of the Maternal Waiting Home. They explained that Nurses quarters will further the health sector and enhance the services provided by the health workers.

The two Lawmakers provided LD$ 20,000 for the Handii Clinic Laboratory Project and promised to work with other lawmakers to allot funding for the construction of the Laboratory.

Despite continues interventions by Africare, Save the Children and other partners supporting efforts of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in strengthening health care delivery in

Bong county, bad road condition stands as a major impediment to their work in the county.

Our Bong County correspondent says the inaccessibility of some communities in the county puts most inhabitants at disadvantage in receiving healthcare services. Our reporter named Gbanda in Suakoko district as one of the worst communities where health workers are finding it difficult to reach the residents due to the bad road network in the area.

A three year Accelerated Action Plan( AAP) for Maternal Mortality Reduction(MMR) developed by the Ministry of Health and its partners seeks to increase the percentage of deliveries conducted by skilled health professional from 40% to 80%; something that has increased the incidence of Caesarean sections from 2.8% nationally to between 5-15 % in every county.

The roadmap seek to reduce maternal mortality ratio from 994 deaths/ 100,000 live births to 497; reduce the neonatal mortality ratio from 32 deaths/ 1,000 live births 16 and reduce stillbirth from 27/1,000 live births to 14.

According to the Accelerated Action Plan (AAP), the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health anticipates achieving these goals by 2015 in line with Goal Five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seeking significant improvement in maternal health by 2015 globally.

It remains unclear whether Liberia will meet the 2015 target specifically in the health sector with mounting challenges that insiders cite to include limited budgetary allocation for health constituting just a little over 6 percent of the national budget, limited number of trained manpower, poor geographic distribution of available skilled personnel and low salaries and benefit for existing personnel.

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