Maternal Mortality Remains a Struggle in Liberia
By admin July 11, 2017

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In Liberia, the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world with 725 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Lawmakers are trying to lower this statistic by implementing and enforcing laws that require women to go to health clinics for proper delivery. The law dictates that health care providers like local village birth attendants take women to the nearest clinic to have her child. There may be a tall price to pay if the attendant fails to do so.

The high mortality rate is a result of ill trained attendants and overall bad medical practice. Local clinicians have played an important role in providing health care attention to women in rural areas. However, incorrect procedure has proven to come at a high cost. They “roll a pestle on the mother’s stomach to try to push the baby out” says Eunice Josiah, a midwife in a small Liberian village. Practices like these jeopardize the life of the mother and the baby. Often Cesarean sections are required, but attendants do not have the proper tools to perform one, and usually, the mother doesn’t make it to the hospital in time to undergo the operation. The law aims to ensure that women get proper treatment, especially for C-sections.

As a result of devolution, these laws are created and imposed by local governments rather than the Ministry of Health. However, the Maternal and Newborn Health Conference in Grand Bassa County has formed a program funded by USAID that establishes procedures for hospitalization transport and defines penalties. Yet reports have shown that the help of foreign aid has undermined the role of the government and its leaders. It has also weakened the state by distracting officials, requiring something of them in return; in other words, aid is used as a political tool.

Nevertheless, devolved power persists, and may in fact predominate. In some places like the village Zahmboyee where an attendant named Evelyn Dolo was in this situation, her fine would have been $50, a tub of rice, and a gallon of palm oil, the New York Times reports. In other villages, the fine is more or less strict, as some villages require more cattle or money. There are even places where the penalty is executed by the local health clinic.

The idea behind the penalties imposed by the law is to motivate village health care members to bring pregnant women to a professional clinic or hospital. Although local clinicians say that there are more women giving birth in hospitals than in their homes, it is not clear how well the law is functioning. First, it is unclear whether or not maternal mortality rates have actually decreased. Second, experts are concerned that mothers who do have home births may not visit the clinic or the hospital out of fear of being mistreated for their actions.

An even greater concern is the effectiveness of penalties towards improving the health care system. Many other countries, including Zambia and the Philippians, have implemented similar systems. Other countries like India have implemented systems that reward patients for going to hospitals instead. In India, this method increased hospital admissions for pregnancies by almost 50 percent. Still, this did not necessarily decrease mortality rates. Many initiatives fail to imagine and prepare for their success, rendering them incapable over time.

Newer programs are aiming at improving the existing system by creating waiting homes for expecting mothers and providing better transportation to clinics. The possible success of those programs may be the catalyst this new law needs to really be effective.

Read more:

Born in Liberia

Enticing Pregnant Women in Liberia to Give Birth in Health Centers

How Traditional Beliefs Contribute to Maternal Mortality in Rural Liberia

Maternal and Newborn Health Conference adopts 16-Count Resolutions

Liberia: Grand Bassa Health Districts Meet On Maternal, Newborn Health

Aid brought Liberia back from the brink

Thanks for sharing !

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