The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Office of the First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma has commenced a two-day Consultative Forum on the role of Traditional and Religious Leaders on the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality/morbidity in Sierra Leone, at the Bank Complex at Kingtom, in Freetown.
Major obstacles which limited women’s access to basic rights, such as quality reproductive health care, nutritional level, HIV status, education, poverty and inequity of societal factors, were highlighted as been responsible for the high rate of maternal and neonatal incidences.
Community Leaders, including Traditional and Religious Leaders were drawn from all parts of the Country to participate in the first consultative forum; to empower them to play key roles in averting maternal deaths through advocacy, mobilization and education of families, to ensure that all women attend antenatal and postnatal care.
Maternal Mortality is further impacted by cultural or traditional practices which repeatedly prevent women from seeking health care services especially during delivery and post-partum.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sheku Tejan Koroma properly explained the role of Traditional and Religious Leaders in influencing decisions which could help to reduce infant mortality rate; with an action plan to be implemented in the Country. He assured stake holders of the Government’s commitment and determination to support the Health Sector.
Rev. Bengali of the Council of Churches called for the provision of adequate health care for women and children and also the dissemination of health messages.
His Excellency Dr Halimu Yahaya, Emir of Sokoto State, Nigeria, lauded the efforts of the First Lady, Sia Koroma, for the initiative to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality rate in the Country; adding that this was prompted by her personal experience in child birth and the survival of women. He urged Community Leaders not to mislead the trust imposed on them; noting that Primary Health Care should be prioritized.
In his keynote address, President Koroma stressed that the incidence of maternal mortality is of grave concern to government, as this is one of the reasons responsible for Sierra Leone’s present position at the Human Development Index. He said that this is an indictment for the Country, as the nation is loosing an important component of our human capital. He reiterated government’s response in bringing the situation under control; adding that this has led to the development of a reproductive health plan to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by 30%. By Saidu Bah