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New Maternal Health Funding: Will It Minimize High Rate in Liberia?

Monrovia – Maternal mortality is one of Liberia’s biggest health challenges. The country now has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the sub-region.

Before the Ebola outbreak, the maternal mortality rate of the country was 1,072 per 100,000 live births in 2013. That figure represented a decline from 770 per 100,000 live births in 2007.

Despite the enormous budgetary and international support toward curbing maternal mortality, there are still frequent incidents happening in rural Liberia. Many rural communities lack adequate health facilities, bad roads make it difficult for locals to access health care services and health workers are sometimes unwilling to take assignment in these areas.

A WHO 2015 report said reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters recorded the least progress of all the Millennium Development Goals.

Liberia’s 2016/2017  budget has over US$70 million in it for health. This means the health sector is third on the national priorities following  Security and education.

Additionally, Government of Liberia and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Monday, October 31, 2016 signed two separate agreements valued at 3.3 Million United States Dollars to support the strengthening of the maternal and newborn health sector of Liberia.

The two projects support the Government of Liberia’s investment plan for building a resilient health system in 18 health facilities across 13 counties.

“These interventions will contribute to the government’s effort to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Liberia through a strong Maternal Newborn Death Surveillance and Response and a more effective delivery of emergency obstetric and newborn care to women and girls,” UNFPA Liberia Country Representative, Dr. Oluremi Sogunro said at the signing ceremony in Monrovia.

In February 2016, the government of Liberia and US international development agency USAID also signed another financing agreement worth almost $60 million to support maternal, neonatal and child health care services in the country

Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s minister of health, said the funding had enabled the country to make “many gains” over the four-year period, improving health services in three cities that account for a third of the Liberian population.

It is not clear how the new agreement will play out as it relates how the US$3.3 million will enhance the campaign against maternal and child health.

But the minute progress so far is credited to the training of midwives and awareness across the country, among others.

In June this year, the Liberian government hospital in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County reported that it had 500 live births without recording any maternal death. The report signaled some progress in a county that has struggled with maternal deaths over the past years. In late 2015, the hospital announced over 10 maternal deaths in three months

In 2016, Dr. Willie Benson, the head doctor at the hospital said at  the increment in the number of midwives and the coming in of another doctor greatly improved services at the hospital.

Dr. Willie’s hospital is one of the lucky few, but emulating his concept backed by logistical support and trained health workers will yield similar progress in other county.

The challenges still remain glaring while Liberia’s remains the country in Sub Sahara Africa with the highest rate of maternal mortality. And this means new approaches and strategy should be employed to achieve some progress in minimizing maternal mortality.

Report By: Alpha Daffae Senkpeni



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