By Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist, UNFPA Sierra Leone
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 28 July 2017 – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the UK aid (also known as UK Department for International Development – DfID) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, officially declared commencement of the construction and rehabilitation of eight Emergency, Obstetric and Neonatal Care (EmONC) facilities across the country. To mark the occasion, His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bia Koroma, turned the sod for the construction of two hospitals: King Harman Road and Rokupa EmONC in Freetown.
Sierra Leone has amongst the highest maternal death ratios in the world. The 2013 Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey estimated the maternal mortality ratio at 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births, of which 46.8 per cent were among teenage girls aged 15-19 years. According to the 2016 Maternal Death and Surveillance Report, the main cause of maternal deaths was postpartum haemorrhage – bleeding after delivery – which accounted for 33 per cent of all deaths. These statistics reflect the need to invest on improving access to timely, high-quality, and life-saving maternal and child health care.
According to Sally Taylor, Head of UK aid in Sierra Leone, “The £6m provided for the construction and rehabilitation of EmONC facilities across Sierra Leone, demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to partner with Government to improve healthcare for women and children and reduce maternal and under five mortalities. These new facilities have the potential to deliver improved quality of obstetric and neo-natal services with skilled health workers, reliable drugs and sustained and continued funding from Government.”
The eight EmONC facilities are part of UK Aid’s Saving Lives Programme in Sierra Leone that aims to save women’s and children’s lives by improving the quality, availability and accessibility of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services in the country. As part of the Saving Lives Programme, UNFPA with government counterparts conducted a rapid assessment of 30 health facilities to determine the main gaps in the provision of EmONC, and adolescent and youth friendly services. It focused on infrastructure, human resources, training, and basic equipment and supply needs. Findings highlighted significant infrastructural work to be undertaken in most health facilities, under-staffing, and equipment and procurement needs addressed.
UNFPA country representative, Dr. Kim Eva Dickson stated, “UNFPA is pleased to be part of this initiative to construct health facilities which will provide services to women, children and men in dire need of health care.” Dr. Dickson added, “UNFPA’s support is not only for the building of the structures, but we are also working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to equip the facilities and train health staff to provide high quality care in all of the facilities.”
UNFPA’s support also includes improving access to family planning is improved, training health care providers in emergency obstetric care, training midwives to monitor normal labour and prevent and manage the complications of labour and delivery, as well as scaling up the provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services.
In his remarks, Dr Abu Bakarr Fofanah, the Honourable Minister of Health and Sanitation said, “The Ministry of Health and Sanitation appreciates the financial support from the British people and values the collaboration with UNFPA as the tri-partite partnership embarks on this strategic project.” He added, “The construction of eight EmONC facilities, with financial support from UK Aid, is one of the health sector’s contributions to the country’s overall effort in building back better after the devastating Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. The Ministry looks forward to successful implementation of the projects and to fully restore better health care services to the communities.”
The construction of the eight facilities will contribute to improving access to preventive and treatment services (including emergency and routine care for women during pregnancy, labour and child birth; family planning; management of childhood illnesses; immunization; and care of adult illnesses). The construction and rehabilitation of five Basic Emergency, Obstetric and Neonatal Care (BEmONC) and three Comprehensive Emergency, Obstetric and Neonatal Care (CEmONC) health facilities will take place in eight districts: Kambia, Bombali, Tonkolili, Kailahun, Kono, Western Rural, Western Urban and Pujehun. The structural work will also consist of the rehabilitation of maternity wards, staff quarters, community health centres and a maternity building.