Liberia is on the course of recovery in all sectors including maternal and newborn health. However, there exists a crucial need for the availability of data against which the success could be measured.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the availability of affordable medicines, contraceptives and other health supplies is an essential part of a well-functioning health system that can serve people in an equitable manner.
In this regard, the Government of Liberia and UNFPA on Friday November 15 launched the first-ever survey to assess the availability of modern contraceptives and essential lifesaving maternal and reproductive health medicines in service delivery points in Liberia. “Access to contraceptives empowers women and can save lives. Ensuring access to voluntary family planning can reduce maternal deaths by a third and child deaths by 20 per cent. It can reduce poverty, slow population growth and ease the pressure on the environment”; UNFPA maintains.
The survey is covering 128 primary, secondary and tertiary health centers across the country. In addition to assessing the availability of these services, the survey will also gauge the perception of people who use or attempt to access the services at the facilities on the availability and the timeliness of receipt of services.
Speaking Friday at the launch of the survey, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah said “There is nothing more critical in reducing maternal and newborn mortality, and infant mortality than ensuring that reproductive commodities are always everywhere; accessible and affordable at all times.”
Minister Nyenswah added: “Investing in reproductive health including maternal and child health can accelerate economic growth and development and the wellbeing of citizens. Voluntary family planning can lower fertility and reduce maternal mortality”.
He called on the enumerators and supervisors trained to conduct the survey to be professional and meticulous noting; “tangible and concrete information is needed in order to intervene to make the right decision.”
According to the UNFPA, the survey is under the Global Program on Reproductive Health Commodity Security, commonly referred to as the GPRHCS.
In her remarks, UNFPA Resident Representative, Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu, said the GPRHCS program “gives comprehensive support to governments to enhance procurement of contraceptives and essential maternal and reproductive health lifesaving medicines; strengthen the procurement and supply chain management systems including support to the electronic Logistics Management Information System (e-LMIS); enhance advocacy and demand generation for family planning services and strengthen national capacity for the provision of family planning information and services at health centers and also in communities.
She said the 2013 RHCS survey would serve as a benchmark; providing Liberia with baseline data against which to measure results.
Ms. Ndhlovu further outlined that the focus of the RHCS survey is on three outcome indicators in the GPRHCS monitoring and evaluation framework and they include Percentage of Service Delivery Points offering at least five modern methods of contraceptives; Percentage of Service Delivery Points with seven lifesaving maternal and reproductive health medicines; and Percentage of Service Delivery Points with ‘no stock-out’ of contraceptives within the last six months before the survey.
Liberia is joining 45 countries around the world to conduct the annual review of Reproductive Health Commodity Security. “The results of the 2013 GPRHCS survey will be an excellent complement for the 2013 LDHS and both of these surveys, heavily supported by UNFPA, are two very significant sources of data on Family planning, maternal health and Reproductive Health commodity security. This data will be very useful in determining high impact interventions to ensure reproductive health commodity security thereby contributing to increasing utilization of Family Planning Services and subsequent reduction of maternal mortality”. Ms. Ndhlovu noted.
She promised UNFPA’s commitment to ensuring the provision of family planning services to the people of Liberia as a strategy to reduce maternal mortality. “We know that there is a lot more to be done in order to define the right package of interventions to achieve our common goal that is to improve the quality of life of the Liberian population by enhancing provision of Family Planning services and ensuring that no woman dies while giving life”. She said.
She praised the partnership among line ministries and agencies of Government, NGOs and UNFPA in making sure that women who want to limit or space births get the opportunity to do so and in making sure that sexually active teenagers who want to prevent pregnancy are given an opportunity to do so.