By: Leila B. Gbati

The local non-governmental organization, Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI) through its Executive Director, Naomi T. Solanke, has disclosed that trained traditional midwives in the country are faced with enormous challenges; however, they are still contributing immensely to the country’s health care system.

Madam Solanke said trained traditional midwives in Liberia, are also ensuring the country’s maternal mortality rate is reduced, but hastened to add that their voices need to be amplified, and that need to be supported and integrated.

“We need to show that they have agency in leadership instead of creating law that pushes away and brand them as being harmful. They are not harmful, they also help in the community,” she stressed.

Madam Solanke made these assertions on Friday, September 3, 20201 at the launch of a research report on “Strengthening Integrated Health System in Liberia,” held at RLJ Kendeja Resort and Villas in Paynesville City.

The research report was launch by CHI with support from Open Society Foundations and OSIWA.

At the launch, the CHI Executive Director indicated that the research report is more about amplifying the voices of traditional midwives and documenting traditional medicine and practices; noting that for too long now, the only thing people get to read about traditional medicine practices is only the negativities, admitting that although there are challenges in such practice, there is a need to look beyond those challenges.

She stated that before the advent of western medicine, traditional people were there in the communities, providing healthcare services from the perspective of tradition, but pointed out that “they have been demonized over the years and considered the problem in the health system.

However, Madam Solanke stated that the CHI has come to the realization that practitioners of traditional medicine are posing no problem – rather, there exists challenges within the practice of traditional medicine, which even the traditional health practitioners have also recognized, but they need to be helped.

She said the only way Liberia can make properly make a case for traditional medicine is for the country to document the stories of traditional midwives and undertake research, indicating that this was why the Open Society Foundations and OSIWA supported the research, which was implemented by CHI.

According to her, CHI hired a private consultant, JAC Consultancy, to do the job, stressing that the intent is to see beyond what they know of traditional medicine and what the benefits and challenges are.

She said another reason for the research was to ascertain as to how traditional medicine can be integrated and recognized, noting that only and only if this is done, Liberia can achieve proper healthcare service delivery.

She said the overall focus of the research was to integrate traditional medicine in the country’s health system; ensuring that traditional medicine and western medicine meet, and point out the gap between the two, and as well as how they complement each other.

“This research is being done in three counties, Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties and it is just to show that traditional medicine to be specific, trained traditional midwives, have challenges, and they too contribute to the health system. This is just the first step to showing how traditional medicine indeed contributes to health services and if we integrate them, we will reduce the mobility and maternal mortality rate in our community,” she said.

Commenting further, Madam Solanke maintained that traditional medicine and western medicine, both positively contribute toward having a healthy nation, stressing that using the two together, Liberians are bound to have a very healthy country.

She revealed that other countries have begun the documentation of traditional medicine, though most people say there is no measurement but if there is investment made in such direction, there would be definitely be proper measurement for traditional medicine and a positive result.

She noted that this research came about when she was opportune to speak on a webinar with two persons from Open Society Foundations on colonialism, when they decided that it would be important Liberia also takes on such study to highlight how colonialism is actually being drifted the way things happen within the society.

She said the study is being implemented in five countries, including Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia.

Meanwhile, launching the research report, the Director of the National Community Health Division at the Ministry of Health, Olasford Wiah, said it is important to note that neocolonialism is still being practiced, whether by big nations, development partners or even by Liberians, noting that as Liberians, and  as a nation, Liberia has made significant strides over the years, but the fact remains that all of the country’s national programs especially in the health system, is mostly donor driven.

Therefore,  he said Liberia has to abide by instructions from development partners on what to do but not in the form of control mechanism which continues to make the country dependent on worthy nations.

Mr. Wiah stated that there are lots of good things Liberia has achieved, especially in line with community health, adding that looking at couple of data since 2017, it has been discovered that facility-based delivery has increased from 37% in 2007 to 80% in 2019 and 2020 and that on the flip side, home delivery has decreased from 64% to 19% at the same period and  increasingly delivery done directly by trained traditional midwives, has also decreased from 48% in 2007 to 15% in 2019 and 2020.

“Why are we saying this success story, it is because we as a nation we taught it was important if we are to reduce maternal mortality we must set in place regulations that will help us to achieve that universal indicator and so over the years, the Ministry of Health decided to train traditional midwives to be identify pregnant women cases and refer same to clinics which have worked over the years in order to avoid trained traditional midwives delivering patients mother’s in the community because of complications.

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