Freetown, Sierra Leone, 5 June 2020- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sierra Leone has commenced the distribution of Mama-baby bags to mothers in the maternity wards of selected health facilities. This initiative aims to encourage pregnant women to use health facilities for safe labor and delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Sierra Leone registered its first case of COVID-19 on 31 March 2020, reports have indicated that women are staying away from health facilities for family planning and safe deliveries due to their fears of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
UNFPA commenced the distribution of Mama-baby bags on 2 June 2020 to new mothers reassuring recipients that maternal health services are still available and safe despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The distributions, expected to last for two months, commenced at the maternity units of the King Harman and Rokupa Maternal and Child Health Hospitals – specialized maternal and child hospitals constructed and supported by UNFPA. Further distributions included the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH), Regent and Ross Road Community Health Centers (CHCs), as well as the Aberdeen Women’s Center. The distributions will go beyond Freetown to selected district hospitals and CHC’s in districts highly affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Each Mama-baby bag contains hygiene and essential products for new mothers including; bathing soap, washing detergent, towels, sanitary pads, hand sanitizers, face masks and underwear as well as items for baby including; wipes, soap, diapers, blankets, towels, wrappers, baby clothes, socks and caps.
The distribution of the Mama-baby bags is a key element of UNFPA’s campaign to encourage expecting mothers in Sierra Leone to access health facilities to safely deliver their babies. Furthermore, the initiative furthers the progress towards achieving UNFPA’s three transformative goals, in particular its goal of achieving a world with zero preventable maternal deaths. This novel initiative is funded by the Government of Iceland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNFPA.
Commenting on the distribution of the Mama-baby bags, the UNFPA Country Representative, Dr. Kim Eva Dickson noted that this ongoing effort by UNFPA is part of the efforts focused on ensuring the continuity of essential reproductive and maternal health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Kim Eva Dickson remarked “Women continue to get pregnant and to give birth even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to encourage women to continue to visit health facilities for safe deliveries so that their lives and those of their newly born babies are safe and protected. She further said, “These are critical moments. UNFPA is prioritizing maternal and newborn health in response to the pandemic and we call on others to work with us to ensure that all women continue to access life-saving services. We can only get zero preventable maternal deaths if we work together.”
Dr. Dickson also acknowledged the support received from The Government of Iceland, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “UNFPA really appreciates the support of the Government of Iceland, who promptly responded to our call for support to adapt our programme to respond to the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented. These beautiful Mama-baby bags will most certainly attract more women to come to health facilities for deliveries.”
Sierra Leone has among the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios. The 2013 Demographic and Health Survey recorded the maternal mortality ratio at 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births in the country. The country’s 2016 Maternal Death Surveillance and Response report showed that from January to December 2016, a total of 706 maternal deaths were recorded from all districts, with bleeding after delivery accounting for 33 percent of all deaths. Most causes of maternal deaths, like excessive bleeding, anaemia and malaria, are largely preventable when identified early and with appropriate interventions taken.
UNFPA continues to invest in improving access to life-saving maternal health care and supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to address the causes contributing to the country’s high rate of maternal mortality.
UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
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