-As Home Runs Out Of Food
By R. Joyclyn Wea
In an effort to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and achieve millennium development goal five, the Government of Liberia developed a road-map for maternal mortality reduction, adopted the reach every pregnant woman strategy and established the maternal waiting home at every public health facility across Liberia.
Amongst Maternal Waiting Homes that were built across the country, The Nyenhn Maternal Waiting Home was constructed to support the Nyenhn Health Center in Todee District one in Montserrado County.
This Home is intended to cater to pregnant women who are in their last trimester and is expecting to get into labor anytime soon.
The Nyenhn Maternal Waiting Home which is expected to cater to pregnant women from parts of rural Montserrado and neighboring counties is said to have run out of food and other necessities to keep pregnant women, thereby resulting to pregnant women escaping the Home.
Nyenhn Health Center, being the only referral health facility in Todee, has the entire casement population of over 12,288 mostly women and children; with four Certified Midwives (CMs) and seven Registered Nurse (RN) but is also confronted with the lack of drugs like the rest of the other four clinics in the district.
It is said that six to eight months ago, pregnant women have been mandated by health workers at the facility to provide their own food and medicine to be treated at the home even though it is government’s responsibility to provide food and medical aid for those women who have to stay in the home until they give birth to their babies.
Some of the pregnant women rather leave the Waiting Home to go back into their various communities until they are in labor in order to reduce the stress of providing for two homes (family and pregnant woman at the home).
When these women go back in their communities, they are then being placed in hammock, wheel-borrow or on motorbikes to be taken back to the health center when in labor.
It takes two to three hours for some of these pregnant women to get to the Nyenhn Health Center which is the only referral hospital in the area; this situation has resulted into stillbirths, maternal mortality or leaving both the mother and child dead, among other things.
Despite the unfolding situation, some pregnant women are still willing to be kept at the Maternal Waiting Home when they are in their nine months (labor month) because of fear of losing their lives during the delivery process.
“I was refused by the hospital because they said I am living in Nyenhn and the Home is for people who are from faraway places,” Catherine Caso narrated.
“When they bring the people from the villages to the safe home, some of them can run away because they say they are not having the hand to be lying down to the hospital while their husbands be fending for them but, they are forgetting to know that it is helpful for them,” some users of the Home explained.
Meanwhile, other pregnant women who escaped the Maternal Waiting Home and gave birth outside of the facility also said, “when we go to the Home and our case is difficult; the nurses can refuse us because they can complain that we deliver out of the facility. At time, they can accept us only when we pay LRD3,000.00.
It can be recalled, the Liberian Government and partners especially Save The Children as part of measures taken to address maternal health related issues and reduce maternal death rates in the country, rebrand all of its health facilities, something that led to the construction of “Maternal Waiting Homes” where pregnant women are taken in their nine months.
The Home is intended to properly care and attend to pregnant mothers so as to avoid any issue of complication or a woman losing their life or that of her baby during delivery.
“I was one person who escaped the Home because my husband does not have money to buy medicine and food for me and also for the children at home,” Naomi Jagbeh a resident of Gbeno Town which is some 45 minutes’ drive from the Nyenhn Health Center.
“They will encourage you to go to the Home but what will you be eating when you go there? There is no proper medical care given to pregnant women presently,” she explained.
The Home is being fully run by the government in terms of feeding and medication of pregnant women throughout their stages at the Maternal Waiting Home across the nation.
Pregnant women are taken to the home even though there is no drug to attend to them- Daniel Pabie, Commissioner Tolberta Township in Todee Statutory District, Montserrado County confirmed.
According to Commissioner Pabie, the situation had caused pregnant women to die of complications in the area.
Also admitting to the situation, the Officer-In-Charge of Nyenhn Health Center, Zotawon Philips Gonopu, said it is the responsibility of the center to take care of the medical needs of pregnant women at the Home because they encourage them to go there but not to provide food for them.
“We have 60 pregnant women visiting the center on a monthly basis. We provide medication for these pregnant women, but for the feeding, we encourage the patients to feed themselves because the person was eating at home before coming at the Maternal Waiting Home,” Gonopu explained.
According to him, the center is constrained and highly depending on the County Health Team as it is not on the budget of national government therefore, making it impossible to provide feeding for women at the home.
Zotawon Gonopu explained that, “bringing them to the Home is for their own safety because if you keep them in the villages, and any complication derives, the DMV may not be able to handle the complication but, if you give birth at the Home, we have trained staff that will be able to handle the complication quickly or refer that person.”
Todee has boundaries with Bomi, Margibi, Bong, and Gbarpolu Counties, people from these areas particularly pregnant women go to Nyenhn Health Center to be treated. It has eight clans with a total population of approximately 38, 000 people, but lacks basic social services like healthcare delivery as compared to other areas in rural Liberia. This report was made possible by the Female Journalists Association (FeJA) with funding from OXFAM.