Fixing Liberia's Maternal and Child Mortality Crisis

Liberia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with poor access to modern family planning methods for women who endure increasing levels of sexual and gender-based violence. Their children don't fare much better. The under-fives, especially newborns, suffer needlessly from illness and death due to common, preventable childhood illnesses.

The Ministry of Health launched its National Community Health Assistant Programme in 2016, with donor and NGO support. Community Health Assistants (CHAs) have been recruited from their communities, trained, equipped, supervised and paid a salary, to provide quality healthcare to the 28% of the population that lives more than 5km from the nearest health facility. Ultimately, the objective of the national programme is to provide quality care and improve lives of women and their children.

Now that the national CHA programme has reached all 15 counties, the lack of gender balance could create a crippling setback very soon. Without more women CHAs, it will be virtually impossible to harness gender-focused benefits. As the Ministery of Health and partners are reviewing the national CHA policy, it will be critically important to include statements of action promoting gender equality. And those statements must be backed up by resources for programmes to increase the number of female CHAs served by qualified women. Only then will the country make genuine progress toward improving maternal and child health, writes Marion Subah for The Aspen Institute.

(File photo).

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