Global Health

In Liberia, The Ebola Outbreak is Also a Maternal Health Issue

The current outbreak of Ebola has killed more than 1200 people in West Africa, with Liberia having the largest increase in deaths according to the latest reportable data. Although the death toll from the virus itself is astounding, many people – including pregnant mothers – are also dying as hospitals and clinics shut their doors.

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Liberia was already a country with one of the highest rates of maternal death worldwide, but the Ebola outbreak has intensified the maternal health crisis. According to reports, some health care practitioners are turning away patients for fear of spreading the virus or contracting it themselves. The interruption of health care delivery can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. One clinic in the capital of Monrovia used to see 10 to 15 births per week; now, it only sees one or two per week – and some pregnant women leave the clinic before they even give birth because of fear of contracting Ebola from others.

“That’s why some of the clinics are closed – fear, fear, fear,” Lucy Barh, the president of Liberia Midwifery Association, told Buzzfeed. “There’s no protective equipment, and the lives of those health care workers are threatened.”

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia is the largest outbreak of the virus to date. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 400 people have died of Ebola in Liberia alone – including dozens of health care workers. WHO has called the outbreak an “international health emergency,” but Doctors Without Borders says the international effort to help control the spread of Ebola is “dangerously inadequate.”

“The World Health Organization, the international community in general, and nongovernmental organisations must rapidly scale-up their response and send in more teams,” Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement. “It is urgent that management and coordination are improved, but also that strategies are implemented to reach all affected areas and to help improve general access to healthcare in areas where the system has collapsed.”

Media Resources: Buzzfeed 8/18/2014; Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) 8/15/14; New York Times 8/19/14

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