UN (H6) Joint Mission Concludes Visit to Liberia, Highlights Urgent Need for Action to Combat Burden Increase in Maternal and New-Born Deaths

May 6, 2024 - 18:39
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UN (H6) Joint Mission Concludes Visit to Liberia, Highlights Urgent Need for Action to Combat Burden Increase in Maternal and New-Born Deaths

By: Contributing Writer

The United Nations (H6) Joint Mission has concluded its visit to Liberia, highlighting the urgent need for action to combat the high burden of increasing maternal and new-born deaths in the country.

The delegation revealed that 1,100 women and 8,510 new-born babies die annually during childbirth in Liberia.

Dr. Anshu Banerjee, H6 Mission Team Lead – World Health Organization’s Director of the Department of Maternal, New-born, Child, and Adolescent Health and Ageing in Geneva, emphasized the gravity of the situation.

He stated, “Eleven hundred women die every year in Liberia giving birth, and of course, no woman should be dying giving birth.”

The delegation expressed concerns over the increase in new-born mortality rates and the alarming number of stillbirths, attributing these tragedies to a lack of quality care during childbirth and antenatal care, among other factors.

Dr. Banerjee outlined specific targets to reduce maternal and new-born mortality, emphasizing the need to enhance access to healthcare services, reduce high out-of-pocket expenditure for health services, improve health infrastructure, and enact legal frameworks to address gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, child marriages, and teenage pregnancies, among other issues.

Speaking during a briefing session at the Executive Mansion with the H6 team and Heads of UN agencies of the H6 partnership, Liberia’s President Joseph Boakai, said the issues highlighted by the H6 Mission are of national importance in line with the ARREST agenda.

“As a government, we are committed to making things turn around. We commit to being a responsible society that will look out for our women and children. It’s our challenge, and we have the manpower, commitment, and goodwill to ensure that we make this a record of the past”, President Boakai noted.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Leader lauded the team for conducting such an important exercise.

In an earlier interaction, Liberian lawmakers acknowledged the severity of the crisis and pledged to collaborate with the executive branch to address it.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa reaffirmed the 55th Legislature’s commitment to supporting the health sector, citing the recent substantial increase in the health budget as evidence of their dedication to building a resilient healthcare system.

Ms. Comfort Lamptey, UN Resident Coordinator and UN Women Liberia Representative noted the need to ensure that the US$80 million allocated to the health sector in the national budget priorities investments to reduce the high rates of maternal mortality.

Dr. Clement Peter, WHO Liberia Representative, added, “We need to translate these recommendations into workable actions for implementation in the next 6 years and ensure that these numbers are reduced to acceptable levels- this is doable if we will work together.”

Mr. Andy Brookes, UNICEF Representative in Liberia, emphasized, “This is not just about data and numbers; it is about real people’s lives. We came with a message of urgency, and the consensus around the table speaks of commitment.”

UNFPA Representative Bidisha Pillai commended the First Lady, in her role as Maternal and Newborn Health Champion, the Minister of Health, and the legislators for their commitment to reducing maternal, newborn, and child mortality.

She stressed that the UN H6 partners will continue to support Liberia’s efforts to save lives and achieve the health-related national agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

The H6 Joint Mission is committed to accelerating the reduction of maternal, new-born, and child deaths in Liberia. The mission has recommended specific interventions to reduce maternal deaths by 50 percent in four years, new-born deaths by 63 percent in five years, and stillbirths by 50 percent in five years.

The mission also emphasized the importance of inter-sectoral coordination and the linkages to the ARREST agenda, which focuses on Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation, and Tourism. The mission commended the increased budget allocation for health.

However, it stressed the need for timely disbursement and effective expenditure tracking, increased access to free education up to high school for all, particularly making the link between girls dropping out and teenage pregnancy, empowerment and meaningful engagement of adolescents and youth in policy making and implementation of youth-friendly services, and improvement of living conditions and infrastructure.

The H6 partnership said it remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting Liberia in achieving its healthcare goals and ensuring that no woman dies while giving life and that children should be born and live healthy lives and achieve their fullest potential.

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William K Howard William K Howard Jr is a young Liberian Journalist who is focused on investigative and human-interest reporting. He comes with about 10 years of experience in mainstream journalism. William K Howard is currently the Deputy Director of News at CT.com Liberia Limited, Kool 91.9FM/TV. His hard work has also earned him several professional certificates in journalism including Journalist of the year 2022/2023 in Liberia's biggest city, Paynesville.