Magazine article New African

Mrs Koroma We Will Make a Difference

Magazine article New African

Mrs Koroma We Will Make a Difference

Article excerpt

Sierra Leone's First Lady Sia nyama Koroma has shown keen interest in maternal and reproductive healthcare since her husband took over as president in 2007. She set up the Office of the First Lady, which has been designing and implementing projects to complement the government's efforts in reducing the country's infant and maternal mortality rates, which have been largely responsible for its poor ratings in the UN Human development Index. In this interview with Edward Kargbo, Mrs Koroma talks about maternal and reproductive health and her efforts to slash the death rates by 2012.

Q: Mrs Koroma, you have been involved in maternal and child healthcare. What is the driving force behind your interest?

A: As a woman and mother of the nation, I feel obliged and I think it is important for me to complement the efforts of the president in the area of health and education.

Q: Does your nursing background give you more sense of responsibility in the health sector?

A: Yes. In fact it is one of the reasons why I have chosen to help in this area. As you know, Sierra Leone has one of the worst indices in the world. We are ranked at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index. We have one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world and a lot of other development challenges. So I have decided to concentrate on the reduction of maternal and infant mortality.

Q: How much of an obstacle have these rates been to the overall development of the country?

A: The alarming infant and maternal mortality rates affect our development because the health status of any country is an indication of the development of that country. If you have poor healthcare in a country, it shows that there is a lot to be done. The economists know better than me but I can tell you that the overall picture is not good.

Q: Let's try now to be more specific. Tell us about the initiatives or approaches that you have brought as someone with a medical background to help change the unpleasant maternal and under-five death rates.

A: I have designed a clear-cut framework that I work with. I call it the WISH Framework. It means Women's Initiative for Safer Health. With this, I do advocacy work and implement projects that I believe can help make a change. I am an advocate for every reproductive, sexual and child health issue. I also do a lot of community sensitisation work, using community and traditional leaders, and the training of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) and Maternal and Child Health Aides. I have also realized that some groups do well in their communities so I have been supporting groups within communities. All these are geared towards reducing the unpleasant maternal and infant mortality figures.

I have designed a simple but effective strategy to encourage women to give birth in hospitals. I give out baby packs for newborns and food for new mothers that deliver in government hospitals. One complaint that has been coming up is the poor health infrastructure. So what we [the Office of the First Lady] have been doing is building birth waiting homes that serve as an intermediary between the communities and the homes where women can learn ante- and post-natal care and safe delivery. I have also been able to refurbish the Matru Jong Hospital in the southern province. So you see, these are all small interventions to encourage institutional delivery and they will eventually bring a change. …

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