Liberia: just three staff for 12 women giving birth

As we drove out of Monrovia — the capital city of Liberia — the torrential rains made it almost impossible to see more than two feet in front of us.

As people sought shelter, the normally bustling streets of the capital emptied.

“Every year, we get at least two or three days of rain like this without a break” said Rebecca, Save the Children’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Support Officer.

“The roads quickly become impassable and it makes delivering drugs to people in villages extremely challenging.  We often send as many drugs as we can as we don’t know when we’ll next be able to access the clinic.  People who don’t live nearby can’t get there at all.”

You can listen to the full interview with Rebecca here.

I sat thinking that persistent rain could be quite depressing (I’m a Londoner after all!) but in Liberia it actually means something much more serious: life and death.

In the delivery room

The only incubator available in the hospital, that sees over 90 women give birth a month.
The only incubator available in the hospital, that sees over 90 women give birth a month.

We arrived at the C.H. Rennie Memorial Hospital in the city of Kakata — a facility Save the Children has been supporting for the last three months.

Upon entering the maternity ward, I found myself surrounded by women in labour and women who had just given birth – about 12 in total.

Women in labour moaned in one room, while tiny new babies sat quietly with their mums in another. Between them was the delivery room: the space between pregnancy and motherhood.

Then I realised there were only three staff members to nurse, deliver and care for the deliveries of 12 women.

It seemed shocking. I was told that there just aren’t enough nurses — they can’t fill the vacancies.

A grim reality

Beatrice, the ward supervisor, told me about the struggles of the staff here.

This hospital doesn’t have running water – typical for Liberia. They don’t have basic antiseptic or cord ties and must improvise on a daily basis.

“We became midwives because we want to help and we are passionate about our work — but without the tools we need it’s so easy to get frustrated and many quit,” she said.

The only delivery bed in the Kingsville Health Clinic, which has no running water.

Midwives salaries in Liberia are so low that many are forced to work two jobs just to make ends meet.

They are viewed as the ‘lowest’ and least important health workers — a view which leaves many feeling demotivated.

Health workers really do count

I can’t help but think it’s a completely unworkable situation — and one that appears to be coming to a head as campaigners around the world are pushing for world leaders to bridge the global gap of 3.5 million health workers at the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York in September.

As I sit and chat with Rebecca and Beatrice our talk is interrupted by the growing screams from the labour room, and they disappear quickly to ensure everything is fine.

In this photo, I'm with Beatrice Marshall, the ward supervisor for C H. Rennie Memorial Hospital and certified midwives Yassah Barkolleh and Martha Tokpah - these were the only staff members on hand for 12 women in the ward.

I leave the hospital completely moved by what I’ve seen: the dedication, the caring — even when surrounded by nothing.

These women deserve so much more: more training, more support, a decent salary, the basic tools.

They deserve us taking a bit of our time to remind world leaders that they are important.

If you believe women like Rebecca and Beatrice count, take a moment to take action.

Sign our petition to David Cameron now

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Comments

  • Frances Foord

    Currently being a UK midwife, but having previously practiced as a midwife in rural West Africa, I fully support your campaign and have already petitioned the Prime Minister.

    Should like to add however that for many preterm and small babies “kangaroo care” given by their mothers is far more effective than expensive high tech incubators.

  • Edith Namuddu

    Wow, what a mess. Let our leaders do something to save the little human beings.David Cameron, you do have the power to influence decisions.