The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Office of the First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma, will host a National Traditional and Religious Leaders Forum aimed at reducing maternal and mortality rate in Sierra Leone.
There are major obstacles limiting women’s access to basic rights, such as quality reproductive health, nutritional level, HIV status and education. Poverty, inequality and general attitudes towards women and their health are also societal factors responsible for maternal death. 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.
Therefore, the Office of the First Lady in collaboration with UNFPA and the Reproductive Health Division of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, in consultation with Traditional and Religious Leaders would be holding a national forum from 17th – 18th November 2008 for Traditional and Religious Leaders on their role in reducing Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Sierra Leone. This forum would be held with the objective to deepen understanding on the role of Traditional and Religious Leaders on MMR and adopting a plan of action which would serve as road map for implementing policies and programmes meant to reduce MMR.
Community Leaders, including Traditional and Religious Leaders, could play key roles in averting maternal deaths; they can advocate for the 15% allocation of total national budget to the health sector; mobilize and educate families to ensure that all women attend antenatal and postnatal care and take steps to eliminate negative socio-cultural and gender- based practices which compromise the health of the girl child and women.
The intensity of progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals on maternal health, (75% reduction in the maternal mortality ration between 1990 and 2015), has been extraordinarily challenging particularly in Sierra Leone which is considered the least in terms of responding to maternal deaths.
Most maternal deaths are avoidable.
All that is required is improving health care, mainly during the period of pregnancy, delivery and in the post-partum.
These overall interventions could have multiple benefits for mothers, children and the entire communities.
Therefore, efforts by all stakeholders must now be accelerated if the goals are to be reached.
By Abibatu Kamara