Dispatch

09 March 2011

Liberia Launches Ambitious Five-Year Plan to Reduce Maternal and Newborn Deaths

MONROVIA — Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has launched an ambitious five-year plan to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in the country. The plan was launched in Monrovia yesterday during ceremonies to mark International Women’s Day attended by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Ms. Michelle Bachelet.

“This Road Map will be our guide in ensuring every mother that gives birth and every child born in Liberia, will receive the best possible medical and community care, and have the right to life,” said the President at the launch. “The nation thrives when mothers survive. We must strive to keep them alive,” she added.

The plan seeks to halve Liberia’s high rate of maternal and newborn death. Though substantial efforts are being made to improve maternal and newborn health, Liberia’s maternal mortality ratio remains one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa: 994 per 100,000 live births. That means that four women die in Liberia every day from complications related to childbirth or pregnancy.

High teen pregnancy and unmet need for contraception

Because risks increase with each pregnancy, and are higher for adolescents, the high teen pregnancy rate and unmet need for family planning (about 37 per cent) contribute to the large number of maternal deaths in Liberia. These, in turn, are linked to a high infant mortality rate (38 deaths per 1,000 live births).

The plan launched this week calls for increasing the number of skilled birth attendants at all levels of the health care system by 50 per cent; providing around-the-clock access to quality basic and emergency obstetric and newborn care; strengthening community management of services, and increasing coverage, access to, and utilization of family planning services.

It calls upon the Government and its partners to mobilize support for implementation and to forge new partnerships between the Government and communities, non-governmental organizations, development partners and the private sector. The total cost for this 5-year plan is about $145 million. Of that total, about $117.2 million will go toward health service provision and $16.5 million to infrastructure.

Road Map is part of primary health care delivery system

The Road Map is an integral component of the primary health care conceptual framework adopted by the Government of Liberia to drive the delivery of basic, essential and quality reproductive health care services to the people. It was developed by the Government of Liberia with technical and financial support from UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO.

Esperance Fundira, UNFPA Representative in Liberia, sees the Road Map as an example of the kind of partnerships she counts on to save the lives of pregnant women and their newborns. “Delivering as One, we the UN agencies including UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Bank, WHO and UN Women, can accelerate progress in saving the lives of women and newborns in Liberia,” she said. UNFPA is committed to the implementation of the Road Map and other policies aimed at saving the lives of women and newborns in Liberia. “In five years, we would like to see maternal mortality reduced considerably,” she added.

UNFPA is a longstanding and key partner of the government of Liberia in reproductive health. The Fund gives priority to emergency obstetric and neonatal care, family planning, reproductive health commodity security, prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and clinical and social support for women with obstetric fistulas.