One in 17 women die during childbirth in Sierra Leone. This is devastating for families. The death of a mother has repercussions for the entire community.
The vast majority of maternal deaths are preventable, but a lack of qualified health personnel, years of civil war and the Ebola epidemic have shattered local health systems. Sadly, crisis has become the status quo in Sierra Leone and aid agencies and governments have been unable or ill-equipped to intervene. For too many years, maternal health has been seen as a problem too difficult to solve. Now is our chance to make a difference.
The ANU team, led by Dr Kamalini Lokuge, will work in collaboration with local communities, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) to deliver effective, sustainable and scalable solutions that leverage and transform existing programs.
MSF doctors provide life-saving services to pregnant women and their new-borns, but these programs are finite. For long-lasting change, deeper and systemic solutions are needed; solutions that Sierra Leonean health staff can continue to implement after MSF leave.
MSF are currently strengthening the MoHS so that there is a capable local health workforce and community in place. Using their unique model that has proved successful in other humanitarian crises, the ANU team will build partnerships with in-country agencies, doctors and universities. Research centres, set up jointly with local universities, will then train and develop local health personnel, continue to deliver critical services and provide a base for ongoing collaboration. This will ensure a sustainable impact that is embedded within the community.
The ANU team is uniquely placed to transform this crisis, with a proven track record of delivering lasting solutions in acute settings, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and tackling family and sexual violence in Papua New Guinea.
Undertaking research to inform solutions that can be implemented in Sierra Leone is essential. With philanthropic support, the team will:
>>identify/analyse enablers and barriers to effective basic emergency obstetric and new-born care in MSF reproductive health programs over the last 10 years;
>>conduct intervention study to devise/test the most effective solutions for improving the quality, coverage and uptake of basic emergency obstetric and newborn care;
>>determine which components are effective health interventions, produce long-lasting change and prevent the deaths of mothers;
>>plan for the scale-up and dissemination of these effective solutions across the country; and
>>inform MSF maternal and neonatal health policy and programs, and MSF evidence-based advocacy with service and donor agencies. This program aims to reach over 5,000 expectant mothers each year, of whom 1,150 will experience complications during delivery.
Through ongoing advocacy and demonstrated results, the program can then be implemented nationally. Improving the health and life expectancy of mothers and referral systems for children who need health services, will improve the health of their families.
This program will generate greater confidence in the community, increased self-referrals and usage, and better quality of services for women who access delivery care through MSF globally. This will greatly advance the health of the 17,000 mothers who experience obstetric complications each year.