Under a one – year program, 15,000 women of reproductive age and children under five in rural communities are poised to receive improved health care to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Liberia.
On March 13, 2020, Mercy Corps launched the Strengthening Maternal and Infant Health (SAFE) program in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County in collaboration with the Ministry of Health with funding from the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Giving an overview of the program, Mr. Augustine Newray, SAFE Program Manager stated that the project would target maternal and infant health.
Mr. Newray said that Mercy Corps, relying on the strength of health workers, would ensure that health institutions are better equipped to deliver services. Mercy Corps will upgrade and rehabilitate the maternal and infant wards of the Government Hospital in Buchanan.
He also said they want to work with the community, particularly women of reproductive age to be able to increase their knowledge on how to seek pre-natal services or where to give birth when the time comes.
He further stated that Mercy Corps would work with community – based organizations, traditional midwives and local leaders, who will be the conduit to provide the needed services.
Mercy Corps Interim Country Director, Ms. Nina Taka said in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and its health policy, Mercy Corps will build on the program to work through national and community level efforts to improve the health care of 15,000 women of reproductive age and children under five in rural communities.
She mentioned that “In Liberia, the neonatal mortality rate is 26 per 1,000 live births, noting that high prevalence in maternal or child mortality erodes the fabric around which communities are built, that is the family’’.
According to Ms. Taka, the fundamental premise of the SAFE program and why everyone gathered at the launch in Buchanan is [that] each national and community health institution is equipped with adequate skills, system and funding.
“What this also means is that we need to work together as government, civil society organizations and private sector to collectively address the challenges related to maternal and infant health in Liberia,” she said.
She thanked the UAE government and the Liberian government for their joint effort to bring practical solutions to improve maternal and child health care.
Dr. Abraham Jawara, Medical Director at the government hospital in Buchanan, said the hospital reopened in October 2019 after facing various problems, including lack of equipment.
Dr. George Logan, Assistant Minister of Health, also stated that hospitals across the country are having severe difficulties ranging from insufficient drugs and medical supplies to other difficulties faced by doctors and nurses. In the phase one, he said they would be working with 10 clinics and the hospital wards with certain minimum services that match the norm so women will get the treatment they deserve.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said the program is about strengthening maternal and child health and it will not only strengthen health facilities, but also tackle communities.
“And we want to make sure that all of our women go to their different areas for their antenatal care and make sure that they have safe delivery and they understand all of the emergency things that will happen,” she said.
“I know many times people have brought different types of projects to the community, but this project I’m right here with you because I want to see the results. I want to see when they say we strengthen the facility, I want to come back and see what they did to the facility to strengthen it. When they say they are making sure that mothers and children are safe, I want to come back and see that our mothers and children are safe,” she explained.
Minister Jallah concluded that ensuring the program is a success is a team effort that involves the government, communities, Mercy Corps and the Media.