KAKATA, Margibi – Margibi, Liberia’s sixth most populous county, now ranks second behind Montserrado in maternal mortality, after reporting that 28 infants and 7 pregnant women died between January and August this year.
Margibi’s Community Health Services coordinator, James Varney, said the 28 infant deaths were recorded at the C. H. Rennie hospital, between one to five days after the infants were given birth to. Varney blamed the high rate of infant deaths on the poor healthcare environment and the lack of essential drugs.
He said the maternal and child death rate was climbing due to the continual use of traditional midwives to conduct deliveries, as pregnant women are finding it difficult paying for delivery at medical facilities.
At government-run facilities where services are free, Varney said a shortage of essential drugs was hampering the success of deliveries.
Additionally, he noted that the public C. H. Rennie Hospital, for example, has five medical doctors, four physician’s assistants, and more than 100 nurses, but more than 46 percent of the staff are currently not on payroll or receiving incentives.
However, the county health officer, Dr. Myers Pajibo, attributed the increase in the death rates to the failure of most pregnant women not visiting the medical facilities, because of the lack of essential drugs.
“They don’t want to be given prescription. So, they stay home and when things are very serious, they come to the facility,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pajibo said the Margibi County Health Team would host a health conference to bring together key stakeholders, especially trained traditional midwives, to reinforce the Ministry of Health’s policy prohibiting home deliveries. He said this will align the county with Bong, Nimba, Lofa, and other counties that are making progress to reduce maternal and infant mortalities.
Maternal and infant mortality rates are major health indicators and can slow progress in a country’s health delivery system. Infant mortality rates can especially impact a country’s life expectancy.
The Ministry of Health has said factors that contribute to the high death rates across the country include limited access to basic emergency obstetric services, low utilization of family planning services, low coverage of antenatal and postnatal services, insufficiently skilled birth attendants, delays in referrals, and weak referral systems.
The ministry noted that despite the underreporting of maternal deaths by health facilities for fear of being investigated, criticized and punished, and the lack of verbal autopsies, maternal deaths were still very high.
Featured photo by Caroline Gluck/Oxfam