Orange Foundation-SL takes Giant Step to Improve Maternal & Child Health

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By Feima Sesay

Orange Foundation Sierra Leone has handed over a renovated health facility in Kroo Bay community, in Freetown. The event took place last Friday.

The renovation which was done by the telecom giant is in fulfillment of a pledge made last year by the company. The health centre badly needed repairs after being in a dilapidated condition for more than ten years. The lack of comfort in the delivery room at the hospital was one that made women shy away from delivering in the health centre for many years.

Kroo Bay women in jubilant mood sang and clapped in appreciation of Orange Sierra Leone during the event. Neatly painted, tiled and sanitized, the facility suits the comfort of women, and invites them to give birth there. By their songs, women’s willingness to visit the new health centre is now in high gear.

In a colorful handing over ceremony, several high profile personalities in the heath sector of the country including the Director of Reproductive and Child Health, Dr. Tom Sesay were in attendance.

In her address to her audience, Director for Orange Foundation Jestina Betts assured that Orange Sierra Leone’s mission is to improve on maternal and child health care in the Kroo Bay community.

‘’Recent statistics indicate that Sierra Leone is one the worst countries  for a woman to give birth, and Kroo Bay, the biggest and densely populated slum community in Freetown remains the most vulnerable.’’ she noted .

The community, she went on,  became a focus for the maternal health project launched in 2019 owing to ICAP (International Centre for Aids Care and Treatment Programmes) data on maternal deaths.

“Kroo Bay has the highest in vulnerability according to ICAP data. We will make a difference with our partnership with ICAP,” the Orange Sierra Leone Foundation Director assured.

Betts said Orange Sierra Leone started the health project in Kroo Bay by screening for malaria, HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) and other diseases.  She added that it was a pilot project, and that the company had been pulling and pushing against all odds, and that plans for the extension of health services are underway.

She however called on the women to attend antenatal and postnatal clinics to safeguard their health and their babies.

A multi-screening room, she assured, will be open for proper treatment of women, and appealed to the Kroo Bay community to take ownership of the health facility. 

As matters now stand, a bright future awaits pregnant women in Kroo Bay community who attend clinics as baby packs will be offered to them free of cost upon giving birth.

An ICAP representative, Emeka King said his agency came into the community based on a partnership with Orange Sierra Leone to cut down on the rolling statistics of maternal and child deaths.

King said ICAP had worked with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in several health aspects in Sierra Leone, and that his institution enjoys a good relationship with the Kroo Bay community.  “Our key priority is to improve maternal health in the community,” he assured.

To realize this goal, he went on, ICAP conducted health education for 2, 000, identified 396 pregnant women, provided start-up kits to 50 pregnant women, and provided blood pressure and HIV sugar screening services for safe delivery.

ICAP, he said did not stop there but also enhanced IPC (Infection Prevention and Control) standards in the health facility by ensuring proper disposal of used instruments and sanitation concerns among others.

“With ICAP, death of children and pregnant women would be a thing of the past in the community,” he assured.

Speaking on behalf of MoHS, Dr. Tom Sesay confirmed that Sierra Leone is still a challenging place for women to give birth. “Close to 2, 000 women die out of 100, 000 live births,” he pointed out. He however stated that the figure had been 717 deaths out of 100, 000 live births, and that his ministry is working hard to keep the figure at an appreciable level or even ensure zero occurrences.

Dr. Sesay also pointed out that bleeding is one of the major health complications women encounter during deliveries, and that 15 out of 100 women suffer from such complications.

The Reproductive Health Director singled out giving births at homes as the main cause of the complications. Women, he said, are most times attended by Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) who lack basic medical knowledge.

He therefore encouraged women to give birth in the health facility, and urged nurses to immediately refer complicated cases to senior medical officers so that lives would be saved. “Without the right intervention, life could be lost within one to two hours,” he warned.

Medicines, Dr. Sesay went on, should be bought at the hospital where there is proper care and high storage system. Education also plays a big role in saving the lives of pregnant women and their children, he added.

The Demographic Health Survey conducted every five years shows that women who are educated have high chances of survival during delivery than those who are not educated, Dr. Tom says.

“It is painful for a woman to lose a child during delivery. Life could be lost in the process of looking for another child,” he lamented.

Dr. Sesay has been working with Orange Sierra Leone since Corona Virus broke out in March, 2020.

Section Chief at Kroo Bay community, Pa Alimamy Kargbo appreciated Orange Sierra Leone for what he described as a good work and appealed for more.

Climax of the event was the cutting of the tape by the Chief Executive Officer, Orange Sierra Leone, Sekou Amadu Bah, Dr. Tom Sesay and Jestina Betts.

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