New report on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone

AI secretary general Irene Khan visits a maternity ward at a hospital in Sierra Leone.

AI secretary general Irene Khan visits a maternity ward at a hospital in Sierra Leone.

Adama Turay was supposed to be cuddling her newborn. Instead, she was fighting for life after the birth of her first child.

She was bleeding and sick after delivery. Her family knew something was wrong, but they didn’t have money for a doctor.

They somehow managed to raise enough for a taxi to take her to the hospital, but during the 40-minute ride to the nearest medical facility, Adama died.

“The fear of what it would cost prevented her from seeking the medical attention that she really needed,” said Sarah Kabbia, Adama’s sister.

Amnesty International’s new report, Out of Reach: The Cost of Maternal Health in Sierra Leone shows us a bleak, terrifying situation for pregnant women and their families:

  • A higher proportion of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth and pregnancy than almost anywhere else in the world.
  • Women and their families are forced to negotiate and pay for equipment and medications, and provide their own food and water, while they’re in a health facility, at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
  • Most people live far away from a medical facility and cannot afford transportation costs to a hospital or doctor.

Sierra Leone is recovering from 11 years of civil war, which ended in 2002. It will take time and a lot of outside help to rebuild what was already an under-resourced health care system.

The good news is that a strong groundwork was already laid during that time when the government declared a policy of free health care for vulnerable people, including pregnant and lactating women. But it’s up to us to see to it that those policies are enforced.

Reducing maternal mortality should start immediately. Right now is our window of hope.

In August, Health Minister Sheiku Koroma described himself as, “wak[ing] up at 3 o’clock in the morning, worried about maternal mortality and young children dying.” He is one of many who is ready to change things in Sierra Leone. But we need to seize this moment.

Help us push maternal mortality in Sierra Leone into the international spotlight. Put the pressure on the Sierra Leonean government to make maternal health a priority. Adama and all women have a right to a safe birth. Don’t let her tragic death fade into a footnote.

Sign the petition to Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma today.

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