WRITTEN BY ABDUL R. BEDOR FOR THE NEW CITIZEN NEWSPAPER
Africell, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation among other partners; on Friday 17th May, 2013 supported the MamaYe campaign to reduce maternal and newborn mortality at the British Council Hall, Tower Hill in Freetown.
The First Lady, Madam Sia Nyama Koroma, who delivered the keynote address and official launch of the MamaYe campaign stated that they have just concluded a very successful sub regional conference on Teenage Pregnancy and Child Marriage aimed at raising the awareness of traditional and religious leaders about their roles and responsibilities as well as how to mobilize and sensitizes their communities to reduce teenage pregnancy and child marriage.
She noted that maternal health is not a women’s issue, but the integrity of communities, societies, nations and the wellbeing of all.
She added, ‘’I believe that every Sierra Leonean woman and baby should survive childbirth. I have always guaranteed this nation that no woman should die while giving life. MamaYe is aimed at improving maternal and newborn survival in six African countries including Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania. The campaign will engage leading African experts in accountability, evidence and advocacy.’’
Madam Sia Nyama Koroma further stated that MamaYe campaign aims to act as the catalyst for change on issues surrounding maternal and newborn death and also links activists, policy-makers and researchers to actively promote maternal and newborn survival as well as engaging citizens to raise their level of expectations of healthcare services.
She further highlights the key activities of the campaign that include building the capacity to track health and Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH) flows of finance leading to the launch and rollout of CARMMA in March, 2010 maintaining that the launch of the Free Health Care Scheme by the President was a demonstration of his political will and strong leadership.
She further commended partners like WHO, UNFPA, Evidence 4 Action and Africell among others for the continued support stating, ‘’we will advocate for the finalization and enactment of legislation which will enforce the review of each maternal death that takes place in a facility. Furthermore, this campaign is right at the heart of what I want to achieve in my role as First Lady. In fact, its objectives mirror many of those of the Women Initiative for Safer Health project which is a creation of my office designed to help reduce maternal mortality and with Mamaye and the Maternal Survival Action Network, we can unite and bring about the Vision for maternal and newborn survival that Sierra Leone deserves.’’
The UNFPA Country Representative, Madam Ratidzai Ndlovu lauded the organizers pointing out that there has been an increase in service delivery resulting to a 51% decrease in maternal mortality since the launch of the Free Healthcare scheme.
She underscored, ‘’there is no room for complacency as young girls are dying. Furthermore, family planning is the key to the prevention of pregnancy which is centered in the protection of teenage pregnancy.’’
She further revealed that only 25% of all women delivered in health facilities while 39.5% of urban women delivered in health facilities and 19% of rural women delivered in clinics’’ and admonished pregnant women to visit health facilities urging, ‘’visit clinics regularly to deliver in safe clinics and hospitals. Do not risk your lives.’’
Deputy Health and Sanitation Minister, Foday Sawi said that the Ministry has a keen interest in the noble activities of the MamaYe Sierra Leone programs that offers the ministry and partners the opportunity to collectively dedicate themselves to health issues, survival and wellbeing of women and children in the country.
Foday Sawi also disclosed that President Koroma and his Government are the front runners in Africa in tackling the health problems of women and children and reiterated that Government is now poised to champion the Agenda for Prosperity for quality service delivery to ensure reduction in under-five and maternal mortality among others.
He added, ‘’to achieve this noble goal requires Government and partners ensuring safe clinics with qualified staffs, sustained availability of drugs at service delivery points, effective blood and laboratory services, availability of good quality equipment to healthcare personnel, active referral systems and proper sanitation among others.’’
Foday Sawi further revealed that the mandate of MamaYe with the support of its technical counterparts, include data/information gathering, establishment of a centrally-located maternal and newborn data on digital platforms through a website and social media forums; supports maternal and newborn advocacy; supports the National Safe Blood Services (NSBS) and celebrate national heroes and heroines who work tirelessly to save the lives of mothers and babies nationwide.
He also reminded Government and donor partners of their commitment to provide mere funds to maternal and newborns and assured Sierra Leoneans that it is possible to save the lives of mothers and babies through the provision of safe clinics and enlisting the support of the private sector, political bodies and the people of Sierra Leone.
Charles Mambu of Health Alert, who deliberated on the increase utilization of clinics, disclosed that if more women had timely access to safe clinics, 2000 or more lives could have been saved annually adding that out of the 1270 clinics nationwide, only 1200 have modern facilities with a qualified nurse.
According to Charles Mambu, the absence of electricity has further compounded the storage of blood and massive supply of essential drugs to these clinics and that all the ambulances in the 21 referral centers are non-functional
‘’Our women deserve safe clinics with pure water, electricity, skilled staff, essential drugs, equipment, good ambulance services among others as in Sierra Leone major bleeding can result in the death of a mother: I want to also appeal to all to donate blood to save lives.’’
Honorable Hannah Bundu of constituency 61 and a member of the Parliamentary Health Committee assured MamaYe of their support.
Deputy Finance Minister, Mabinty Daramy also guaranteed the Ministry and Government support while the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Sarian Kamara among others, made salient statements.
Yasmin Jusu Sheriff chaired the ceremony while performance by hip-pop musician, Kao De Nero, climaxed the ceremony.