Young people have taken the lead in disseminating safe clinic messages to market women in Matru Jong, Bonthe District, with the aim of building trust in the health system. (Photo: Market day in Matru Jong, Bonthe District. MamaYe’s district lead activists share safe clinic messages with market women)

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation have identified 7 key enablers that make a clinic safe and ready to provide emergency care for pregnant women and newborns. These enablers include: water and sanitation facilities, electricity supply, availability of essential drugs, adequately trained staff, medical equipment, referral (ambulance) systems, a functional laboratory and the capacity to store blood.

Yet in the December 2014 Facility Improvement Team (FIT) assessments, none of the 12 government hospitals and 65 community health centres assessed met the 7 enablers for safe clinics. Moreover, Sierra Leone has some of the worst maternal and child health outcomes in the world; according to the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, there are 1,165 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 156 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births.

MamaYe is a campaign funded by the UK Department for International Development and delivered by Options, that strives to improve the survival of mothers and newborns in Sierra Leone. MamaYe advocates for safe clinics and for more funds to be committed to health in Sierra Leone.

To ensure that advocacy continues at the community level, MamaYe has identified district lead activists (DLAs) and equipped them with information on basic health issues, including the importance of safe clinics. During recent engagement in Bonthe, DLAs encouraged market women to trust the health system and attend clinics regularly.

Ernest Sowonie, DLA for MamaYe, said that the young people in the district started sharing safe clinic messages with market women and community members after they received orientation from the MamaYe country team. He added that young people are encouraging women in Bonthe, especially pregnant women, to use health services offered by clinics whenever they become pregnant.

An important example of this is antenatal care; women should receive at least 4 antenatal visits during their pregnancy. However, one of the young people, John Alpha, revealed that many pregnant women don’t attend antenatal care, especially those who are petty traders. He said that the women prefer going to the market when they are pregnant. As an activist for MamaYe, John Alpha helps the women understand why they should attend antenatal care and why it is safe to deliver in a health facility.

Bonthe district has been one of the more disadvantaged districts in Sierra Leone in the area of social and economic development. The health sector in the district is underfunded. Health workers in the district often complain about the lack of remote allowances, accommodation and equipment. Some of these factors have made improved health service delivery a serious challenge in the district.

Despite these challenges, MamaYe believes that every mother and newborn in Sierra Leone can survive childbirth with safe clinics and more funds for health. Join the MamaYe campaign!

By Sallieu Sesay, Communications Coordinator, MamaYe Sierra Leone

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