UNFPA-trained midwife promotes safe motherhood, save mothers and babies in Sierra Leone 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 May 2021:

“Serving a hard to reach community like Alikalia comes with a lot of challenges. The good thing, however, is my contribution in promoting safe motherhood and in reducing maternal mortality which I am proud of as a midwife,” said Regina Conteh, a midwife attached to the Alikalia Community Health Post, Koinadugu district, north of Sierra Leone.

With 717 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the 2019 Demographic and Health Survey. Sierra Leone is still among countries with the world’s highest maternal mortality ratio.

Midwives remain the basis of UNFPA’s work in achieving the three transformative goals of zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

UK aid support to midwifery school through UNFPA

With funding from UK aid, UNFPA, through the Saving Lives Programme, supports the Government of Sierra Leone in training midwives in the three schools of midwifery (Freetown, Makeni and Bo), to improve the availability of skilled birth attendants as well as to help reduce the gap in the country’s midwifery workforce.

Regina Conteh is a midwife trained at the School of Midwifery in Makeni. By 2012, as a State Enrolled Community Health Nurse, she served at the Community Health Post at Matotoka where she witnessed women losing their lives giving birth to their babies, something that pushed her to enrol in 2017 to become a midwife.

“This [midwifery] came with a lot of challenges,” she explained, adding that “it however was a way one could contribute in promoting safe motherhood and in saving lives of mothers and babies.” Reflecting on the numerous trainings she got, she said, “The trainings at the school of midwifery are largely contributing to my work in successfully saving lives.”

A Community Health Post delivers quadruplets

With no maternal mortality reported since 2019 when she was posted to the Alikalia Community Health Post, Regina believes this is due to the significance attached to the quick referral of major cases.

“When a case is detected to be serious at the antenatal care stage, we immediately do a referral to the Kabala Government Hospital. This is sometimes difficult especially given the terrible road network.”

Delivering babies comes with required skills and expertise and this is more so with twins or quadruplets. In September 2020, Regina successfully delivered quadruplets, the first midwife to have done so.

A pregnant mother, Bondo Thoronka, arrived at the Community Health Post for health care services but was referred to the Kabala Government Hospital.

“She failed to travel to Kabala as advised. Days later, she came to the facility, fully dilated. There was no ambulance. In a bid to save her and the babies, I used the skills I was taught at the School of Midwifery to deliver her,” a proud Regina narrated, and added that, “delivering that pregnancy was a lifetime experience.”

With bleeding in pregnancy accounting for about 40 per cent of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone, Regina was worried about possible postnatal complications like bleeding which has the potential to lead to death. “This was my major concern. I couldn’t sleep as I was constantly monitoring her and the quadruplets. It turned out to be one big success. Today the mother and her four babies are all alive,” said Regina.

Changing perceptions through community advocacy

Community advocacy is critical to ending preventable maternal deaths. When Regina was first posted to the community, she felt like returning. “When I first arrived, there were cultural challenges too added to the fact that it was my first time coming here. Changing the mentality of people was a problem; more so, getting women to visit the health facility to deliver babies.”

There was a high number of home deliveries by traditional birth attendants who lacked the required skills and medical equipment to ensure safe delivery, contributing to women dying during childbirth.

When Regina realized this was a major problem, she embarked on outreach visits to different communities, talking to TBAs about how they could help in getting more women to the health facility.

“I developed a scheme wherein, when a TBA brings to the health facility a pregnant woman, some amount of money is given to her as transport fare. It was a difficult drive but it helped to create impact. Now, we get huge turnout of pregnant women visiting the facility daily with a minimum of 20 deliveries a month.”

What the Community Health Post needs

Looking back, Regina, who by midday of Friday, 23 April, had received over a dozen women for maternal health care services said that working in a Community Health Post she never knew was something else especially being the only midwife with a Community Health Assistant.

“We lack the infrastructure and tools. There is need for more support. However, I am happy to be serving the community and helping in promoting safe motherhood by conducting antenatal clinic, clean and safe deliveries, detecting complications and doing referrals and eventually contributing in reducing maternal mortality rates, thanks to the UNFPA and donor support.”

For more information, please contact:

John Baimba Sesay, UNFPA Sierra Leone,

Web and Media Analyst

Email: jsesay@unfpa.org

Tel: +232 30953193/ +23279369395

 

3 Comments

  1. One does not need to be decked out in degrees and diplomas, be these national or international or all (I am thinking here of our former Chief Minister and now Minister of Foreign Affairs), to have a very real and powerful impact on the lives of one’s fellow countrymen and countrywomen. I join all those who recognise and value Regina Conteh’s sterling qualities as a midwife in congratulating and thanking her for saving the lives of Sierra Leonean mothers and their precious little ones living in some of the most remote corners of our homeland.

    Regina, you are a true national hero, being an embodiment of commitment and dedication in serving your community and country. You courageously and selflessly face up to the challenge of making a difference in a country where to be a woman, pregnant and poor is, sadly, not infrequently a death sentence. That you are so proud of the training you have received and are so inspired to put it to the best use possible is so heart-warming. You are a bright light, a beacon of hope in the long, dark night of living in a failed state such as ours; a state in which those with the power to make a difference to the lives of their fellow countrymen, lack the political will and moral conviction to put others before self.

    Regina, your role in saving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society makes you the essence of what it means to be human. Unlike some of our so-called statesmen, you are truly a life-giving force, not a life-denying one. You represent what is best in us as a people and guarantee our future. Great warrior, I salute you most unreservedly.

  2. One of the biggest silent killers in our communities, up and down the country has always been, and remains pregnant Sierra Leonean women trying to give birth. Back in the 1980s, in Kabala, I recalled one of the surgeon ,was literally chased out of town, because so many pregnant women that came in contact with him died under his care. He was given the name Dr death. Unfortunately, I lost a young cousin, and an aunt of mine during that period .It was a scary moment for all concerned. Infant mortality rate, and pregnant Sierra Leonean women dying, whilst trying to give birth is nothing new. And unfortunately, not restricted to village around Kabala alone, is a country wide problem. As it stands Sierra Leone has one of the dubious title of recording one of the highest infant mortality rates in the West African region, or one will say Africa as a whole.

    There are many more cases in villages and towns up and down the country , where government statistician have never visited, but it doesn’t mean is not happening. Our country is in per with conflict ridden Democratic Republic of Congo. Now when we start to compare our countrys performance on this sector, to a war torn country that have never enjoy peace since there Independence in the 60s, we realised how our governments have completely failed us. It is much easier for governments to come up with workable developments goals, and strategies on how to meet those goals, in a peaceful and secure environment. Even though our country is enjoying relative peace,investing in programmes that will make it safe for women to deliver our future generations, is out of sync with what this do nothing Bio government , has shown so far. Easy access to hospitals, like good roads, dedicated Ambulance service within short distance of major health centres, or main hospitals, will go a long way to help address this problem.

    Women up and down the country, should not be made to feel, getting pregnant, is like passing a death sentence on themselves. More women die trying to give birth, that the covid19 pandemic have killed since its outbreak. Government involvement on prevention is what is required. But Bio and the health ministry have shown little appetite in addressing issues affecting women in Sierra Leone. One private citizen cannot do it alone. It has to be a government driven initiative, working with private sector providers.

  3. A loving grandmother once said: ” It is not just the safe delivery of babies that gives joy and fulfillment to a highly gifted, dedicated Midwife, but the making of mothers is what Midwives see as the miracle of birth.” Totally inspiring. Gentlemen – if you think there are no heroes in Sierra Leone,think again – Madam Regina Conteh is one of them. This brave thoughtful woman needs to be adequately rewarded by the government of Sierra Leone for her efforts in saving lives in these difficult,challenging Covid 19 era of disillusionment and despair.

    A qualified midwife like Regina Conteh with such great skills shouldn’t have to worry about the tools and resources she needs to get her job done, but this is Sierra Leone,an eerie place where our leaders are hardened criminals who would prefer to buy brand new SUVs instead of providing hospitals with all the necessary equipments, advice, resourceful helping hands and tools they need to excel. Madam Conteh and her colleagues are in the business of saving lives and igniting hope in the minds of struggling families across our country.

    Again, we the people of Sierra Leone thank UK AID and UNFPA for their dedication and support, that facilitates the training of Midwives in a Sierra Leone that is under the tight grips of authoritarian rule. I now call on the Minister of Health to create a transparent platform for honoring hardworking,patriotic citizens like Madam Regina Conteh and others that are in the business of saving lives and igniting the fires of Hope in the hearts of thousands of pregnant mothers across our beloved nation.

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