Barely 46 percent of pregnant women in Liberia, who gives birth in hospitals, are assisted by skilled attendants, according to the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA. This grim reality speaks to the urgent need for adequate professionally trained midwives to save the lives of both babies and mothers. “The presence of a midwife at birth can mean the difference between life and death”, notes UNFPA-Liberia Representative Ratidzai Ndhlovu. She made the observation during the presentation of office equipment to the Midwifery Training Program at the Phebe Training School in Suakoko, Bong County recently.
With a population of nearly 4 million people, Liberia continues to lose her future generation due to the lack of sufficiently trained midwives to assist expected mothers during deliveries. Worse still, most pregnant women across the country to give birth at home rather than going to the hospital or health institution basically because of illiteracy and poverty.
We need to put an immediate check to this grave challenge facing our health sector to redeem the country’s future. Following a fratricidal civil war, Liberia should not remain on the path of misery and death. The UNFPA Country Rep. has pledged more support to the training of midwives in the country. But this would require collaborative support from the government in making sure that no woman dies here, while giving birth to a child. It is important that both mother and child survive after this crucial process.
“Midwives are crucial in the fight to reduce maternal and newborn deaths. Midwives can prevent up to 90 per cent of maternal deaths if they get all the support and are allowed to practice their competencies and play a full role during pregnancy, childbirth and after birth”, stressed Madam Ndhlovu. The Phebe midwifery school currently offers two study programs: a 3-year direct-entry midwifery course immediately after high school (basic midwifery), and a 2-year nurse-midwifery training program for nurses. This is where support should be directed mostly to insure that graduates coming out are adequately prepared to serve in hospitals and health centers.
Such important institution should not be left on its own while we pay lip-service to healthcare delivery. “The last time I visited the training facilities”, the UNFPA boss lady notes, “there were lots of students holding old pieces of papers around, copying from textbooks because as they informed me, there was no printing or photocopying facility.”
How in the world can we effectively run such training institution without the basic materials to enhance the learning process! This is what we are talking about. The government’s professed commitment to providing efficient healthcare services to the citizenry should be matched by substantial tangible support. There is no other way absolutely to fulfill such promise.
Since the Government of Liberia and partners launched the roadmap for accelerated reduction of maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity in the country in March 2011, a lot of efforts have been put into the training of more midwives. However, according to the Liberia Board of Nursing and Midwifery, by December 2013, the country could only boast of about 800 midwives available to the population of over 3.5 million people; highlighting the urgent need for the training of more midwives.