The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) issued its 2015 Report in Monrovia last Thursday with the most revealing news that 507 women and adolescent girls in fragile states die everyday of complications arising from pregnancy and child birth in emergency situations.
The Report, which was launched along with support from the Liberian government, indicates that much needs to be done to avert the careless loss of lives of our precious women and adolescent girls. The Report, under the title, ‘Shelter from Storm, a Transformation Agenda for Women and Girls in Crisis Prone World’, made it clear that the victims were from ‘fragile states’, which no doubt include Liberia.
With our recent Ebola nightmare it is even more imperative that the Liberian people, led by the government, take bold steps to ensure the lives of Liberian women and adolescent girls, who were the focus of the 2015 Report, are able to make informed choices on issues that affect their lives.
What can we do as a people to ensure that we are able to minimize, if not eliminate completely, the scourge of death that stalks our women in such circumstances? During the launch, UNFPA Country Director Dr. Oluremi Songunro admitted that while remarkable progress has been achieved in protecting the health and rights of women and adolescent girls in humanitarian settings during the past decade, the growth in need has outstripped the growth in funding and services.
But the question we in Liberia should ask ourselves is whether we can boast of progress on any of the issues that affect women. Today we are faced with the issue of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), where very young girls suffer violence of dire proportions. We are also faced with a dangerous situation in which, whenever a case is reported, people lose the interest to pursue it to ensure that the perpetrator suffers the consequences of his action. There are also reports that some of the girls who suffered rape and other acts of SGBV lost their lives and, of course, there are unreported cases in our communities as well.
The horrifying nature of such cases must place every Liberian parent on high alert to work with relevant agencies to ensure that we increase the fight against what threatens the lives of our women and girls. And one way we can do this, we think, is for the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Liberia National Police, the Ministry of Gender and communities to work together.
Dr. Sogunro told the gathering during the launch of the Report that, “Sexual and reproductive health services critical to the health and survival of women and adolescent girls are at the time they are needed most.” How can we ensure that ‘services critical’ to the health of women and adolescent girls are readily available?
To do this, is to follow the advice of Dr. Songuro for (Liberian) government to invest heavily in institutions that build girls and women’s human capital. We must, he said, build resilient communities with the view that we could prevent another crisis from overwhelming us.
The bottom line is our focus to reduce the unnecessary death rates among women. The Ministry of Health must lead the campaign to increase education on sexual and reproductive health and must encourage child-bearing women to follow the best choices that could minimize their chances of becoming victims.
Our communities must also join the fight against maternal deaths and violence against women and girls in our context so that we may not witness the death of another woman or girl for any of the curable reasons.
“We need to find shelter from the storm. For a target, we need to use the report to transform women and girls and give them the backbone so that our women can have better healthcare and shelter,” stated Dr. Wlihemina Jallah, proprietress of the Hope for Women medical center.
In the end, a concerted effort with clear focus, coupled with the provision of needed resources could spell the difference between life and death for women and adolescent girls, including those who may not able to have another chance to live another day.