Despite efforts to curb maternal mortality…


Pregnant women still die giving birth

By Regina Pratt

In spite of efforts being scaled up by the government, NGOs and other organizations to stem maternal mortality rate in the country, Sierra Leonean women continue to die while giving birth. The government and UN agencies are spending huge sums of money to stop or minimize mortality rate in the country, but reports of pregnant women dying in surrounding circumstances of alleged neglect by hospital authorities are still rife.

The Office of the First Lady has also raised the awareness by organizing programmes that are geared towards curbing the rate of women dying while giving birth, as well as protecting their children. One of such programme was launched using the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).

CARMMA was formed against the backdrop to stop the rate at which women die while giving birth, as well as preventing children from dying before their first birthday. The mortality rate in Sierra Leone was 870 deaths per every 100,000 live births, and this has not been reduced to even 10 percent, with the current rate standing at 857 deaths as reported.

Notwithstanding the launching of the Free Health Care initiative by President Koroma in April 2011, sustained efforts by the government, UN agencies and civil society organisations have not succeeded in significantly reducing maternal mortality rate in the country.

Dr. Barnet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Country Representative, revealed at a one-day validation meeting on the draft UNFPA/Government of Sierra Leone 6th country programme document that, one woman dies every four hours and six die daily, making a total of 857 deaths per every 100,000 live births which, according to him, is still high in the country.

There were reports of Free Health Care drugs being stolen and such cases had little or no publicity as the culprits were charged to court and that was the end of the matter.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is doing little or nothing to give update on those issues which, on the other hand, affects the smooth running of the Free Health Care scheme as those that are in dire need of the drugs could not get them, as hospital sources say drugs are limited.

President Koroma, in his launching of the Free Health Care programme, made it categorically clear that the drugs are for pregnant women, lactating mothers and under-five children, and we must all ensure that this problem of maternal and infant mortality is reduced in the country.

Reports say that 40% maternal mortality in the country is as a result of teenage pregnancy as some of the girls have not reached maturity age for child bearing.

Speaking to Madam Isata Sesay at Ferry Junction in the east of the city, she said that delay in taking pregnant women to the hospital is another challenge in reducing maternal mortality, noting that some of the hospitals that do deliveries are far away from their homes.

She disclosed that one of her sisters was trained as a traditional birth attendant (TBA), but stopped receiving support to carry on with her work. She said the trained nurses are complaining that the TBAs want to hijack their profession and therefore had to stop delivering pregnant women.

The unfortunate incident at the Makeni government hospital should not be allowed to repeat itself as Sierra Leone is fighting to attain a society where “no woman dies while giving birth, and no child dies before celebrating his/her first birthday”.

The government and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, UN agencies and other health partners need to improve on their strategy in the fight against maternal mortality in the country.