July 19, 2021
The United Nations Population Fund- UNFPA continues to work with the Government of Sierra Leone in providing maternal and newborn health services including Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care, family planning services for women and girls, and other sexual and reproductive health services.
In building a strong team of healthcare workers, the agency has donated to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation medical equipment critical to supporting emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC service provision) and in the screening and management of cervical cancer. The equipment donated include cryotherapy apparatus, carbon dioxide gas cylinders, fetal dopplers, hemocue, sterilizers, vaginal speculums- different types and sizes, forceps- different types and sizes, instrument trays and gyneacological models.
The donation was made possible with funding from the People’s Republic of China under the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF), through which China in 2019, committed $2 million to reduce maternal deaths and prevent and treat cervical cancer in Sierra Leone. In 2020, UNFPA in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, initiated the China South-South Cooperation project aimed at improving women’s health and reaching vulnerable and those at high risk of maternal mortality and cervical cancer. The project led to the development of a National Policy on Cervical Cancer, a Strategic Plan, and Clinical Guidelines for the management of cervical cancer.
On handover of the equipement on behalf of UNFPA, Dr. Stephen Mupeta, Technical Specialist on Maternal Health and Family Planning applauded the excellent and longstanding ties of partnership that both the ministry and UNFPA have enjoyed. “The items we are donating are needed to look after women when they are pregant and when giving birth and some to be used in training healthcare providers. In addition, some will be used for screening and treatment of cervical cancer”, Dr. Mupeta explained.
Receiving the donation, Dr. Francis Moses, Reproductive Health and Family Planning Programme Manager said, the equipment are livesaving ones that they have been trying to obtain as a ministry. “We are thankful to UNFPA for the support. We are also thankful to the People’s Republic of China as donors for providing the resources that we have been using in providing cervical cancer trainings and for providing the equipment to ensure the services are delivered in facilities across the country”, Dr. Moses said.
UNFPA, with funding support from China is supporting nine healthcare facilities with the establishment of cervical cancer screening and treatment services and in equipping Reproductive Health Centres to provide comprehensive reproductive health services. The support to EmONC service provision will help reduce avoidable morbidity and mortality related to childbirth. It also will contribute to the reduction of the country’s maternal mortality ratio which is among the highest in the world at 717 per 100,000 live births.
Sallay Carew, a Senior Public Health Sister attached to the Reproductive Health and Family Planning programme expressed appreciation to UNFPA for donating the equipment and for establishing cervical cancer screening and treatment services in public health facilities. “The donation by the People’s Republic of China through UNFPA is critical for our health sector. The equipment will help us put into practice lessons learnt from the training on cervical cancer screening and management. The facilities across the country will also help in address issues of maternal death especially those related top cervical cancer”, she emphasised.
Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if diagnosed early. In Sierra Leone, 512 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 372 die from the disease every year with the country ranking 22 in the world with age-adjusted death rate of 22.47 per 100,000. The support by UNFPA to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to establish cervical cancer screening and treatment services in public health facilities will make these services accessible to women and help prevent avoidable deaths from cervical cancer.