By: Moses Geply, Grand Gedeh County
Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County – The Midwifery Training Program in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County has graduated 49 midwives who are expected to carry out safe deliveries at health facilities in the county to help reduce maternal mortality.
Training midwives in rural Liberia is gear toward reducing the high rate of infant and maternal mortality in the country – a serious challenge the country faces. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1,500 women across the globe die every day because of com¬plications during pregnancy or childbirth, and 99 % of these deaths, (500,000) an¬nually, occur in developing countries like Liberia.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Liberia has one of the highest maternal death rates with at least one death out of every 16 live births happening daily. Health experts say one of the challenges leading to the maternal deaths is the lack of trained midwives at the community level.
Serving as the keynote speaker at its 10th Commencement ceremony of the midwives recently in Zwedru City, the Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director of the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Referral Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County urged the graduates to be persistent in the discharge of their duties.
Dr. Lawrence Sherman pointed out that Liberia and other African countries are striving to reduce infant and maternal mortality and as such, Liberians should do away with politics and place emphasis on the health sector if the country is to achieve this goal.
He recalled that Liberia is amongst countries in Africa that produces high percentage of maternal, infant and neonatal death and as such, he wants health officials and Liberians to support the health sector by taking pregnant women and teen-agers to health facilities as soon as possible to avoid complication during deliveries.
Dr. Sherman called on parents to support midwives in their communities to enable them carry out their tasks efficiently and effectively and at the same time encouraged high school graduates to take advantage of the training program; stressing: “Liberia needs young and potential boys and girls to take over the Health Sector in Liberia; the feature of the country lies in the hands of the Youths”.
For his part, Rex O. Moses, Training Manager of the Midwifery Training Program, said prior to the Liberia Civil War, about 44% of women give birth at home without a skilled birth attendant, putting them at risk of dying in the instance of any complications.
Mr. Moses lamented that the lack of trained midwives in most rural health facilities and the long distances women travel to access health care are affecting the country’s efforts to reduce maternal and newborn mortality.
He explained to Local Voices Liberia that the country has less than two hundred trained midwives for its 4 million population, adding “most of these midwives are working in urban areas which complicates the situation for rural women. “To help save more women’s and babies’ lives, Liberia needs to train more midwives, Moses added.
He said the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization and other partners are working to strengthen the country’s six rural midwifery schools in order to improve access to quality midwifery care.
Moses also said there are enormous challenges faced by the midwifery training program in Southern Liberia. “The lack of adequate electricity, vehicles, water, incentives and human resource is a serious challenge,” he said. “Currently, many midwives in the country lack accommodation and transportation to adequately perform their duties.”
The Midwifery Training Program in SouthernEastern Grand Gedeh County was established in 1983 by Ministry of Health with support from the United Nations Children Educational Fund among others. The institution suffered major destruction during the country decade long civil conflict but is now recovering.
In 2008, the MCCALL-DEEN Foundation (MMF) through Merlin in collaboration with the Ministry of Health re-established the training program with Ruth Sayee Cooper as it first Director.
Currently, the institution hosts 112 students who are undergoing basic training requirements to become registered midwives in Liberia. The project sole objective is to improve maternal and child health in and around Grand Gedeh County.
Currently, Liberia has 2 specialized obstetrics and gynecology including 2pediatrics serving a country with a population of over 4 million people.