Young mothers in Sierra Leone sit in the waiting room of a clinic
The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone had an adverse effect on the health sector, with gains achieved in the implementation of the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality (CARMMA) suffering a set-back as most women were afraid of accessing reproductive health care services.
Restoring such gains made over the years in maternal and infant mortality reduction initiatives is therefore a key post-Ebola objective in the three Ebola-affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
CARMMA @ 6
In Sierra Leone, to mark the sixth year of the CARMMA initiative, the Office of the First Lady (OFL) is collaborating with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), UNFPA, PPASL and Marie Stopes Sierra Leone to host a one day meeting at the Bo government Hospital on the 22nd March 2016 with a focus on enhancing institutional delivery, increasing family planning services and cervical cancer awareness. Partners such as Marie Stopes Sierra Leone and PPASL will provide free family planning services on that day. The OFL will take the lead, with support from UNFPA and MoHS, in restoring the confidence of pregnant women to access reproductive health services.
This partnership also aims to raise the issues of CARMMA, strengthen advocacy on maternal and reproductive child health issues and evaluate progress and lessons learnt since CARMMA was launched in 2010.
“No woman or child should die during birth,” says the First Lady, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma. “With the support of our partners, we are committed to ensure increase in institutional delivery and access to reliable health services for our people. Our challenge is to get our pregnant women to have confidence in the health system and access them rather than rely on traditional methods, which are most times fatally risky.”
Furthermore, on 27th March 2016- which is Safe Motherhood Day- the First Lady of the Republic is expected to give a nationwide address via radio and television and there will be goodwill messages from MoHS, Marie Stopes and UNFPA to mark the day. The MoHS, PPASL and Marie Stopes will also provide free family planning services to women on that day and pregnant women will be further encouraged to utilize health facilities to avoid home deliveries.
The First Lady will also launch a cervical cancer project in collaboration with Marie Stopes Sierra Leone.
Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, with support from GlaxoSmithKline through Marie Stopes International, saw the need for scaling up accessibility and information on cervical cancer Screening and Cryotherapy Preventative Treatment as part of their centre services mix of sexual and reproductive service delivery to all, especially the most poor and marginalized.
“There is poor awareness of cervical cancer and its prevention in most poor countries in the world, including Sierra Leone,” said Mariama Awuku, Project Manager of Marie Stopes Sierra Leone.
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women worldwide with 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths each year, according to WHO, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Globocan 2008. Every two minutes a woman dies of cervical cancer around the world. According to The New England Journal of Medicine (November 2005) the devastating impact of cervical cancer is disproportionately felt by women and their families in developing countries who account for over 80% of cases. Whilst cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates have declined substantially in Western countries over the last few decades, they continue to rise in the developing world.
However, says Awuku, cervical cancer is both preventable and curable.
“With the partnership between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and MSI, Marie Stopes Sierra Leone in collaboration with MoHS, is now positioned and benefiting from cervical cancer service provision with a focus on prevention, thereby addressing the growing disease burden caused by cervical cancer,” says Awuku.
The three year funded project targets to screen 4,800 women nationwide, provide cryotherapy Preventative Treatment for 144 persons who have already been screened and have positive lesion of cervical cancer; refer for higher level care, advocate, increase organizational capacity and raise awareness among women.
Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association- Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).