Bijou was a bubbly, beautiful young woman, with a promising future. A dark-skinned girl with gorgeous pop eyes, Bijou was famed for her unbending lover affair with hijab—a prominent definition of her modesty, humility and dignity. She fell head-over-heels in love with hijab at age 12 and remained true to this relationship for rest of her life. “This world is not my home. Death can come knocking at any time. Why not live a rewarding life now?” she would say.
Sadly, Bijou died at a local hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, on February 08, 2019, from pregnancy complications that could have been prevented had she received the right antenatal or prenatal care throughout her pregnancy. She was in her seventh month, and was due for a fourth child in 2019. Both lives were lost, unfortunately.
Fluctuating blood pressure levels – severely low and high blood pressure – were key complications that marred Bijou’s pregnancy. She also struggled with severe hyperemesis gravidarum or excessive nausea and vomiting.
The truth is, Bijou, like a thousand other expectant mothers in Liberia, barely accessed or received the recommended [eight] antenatal appointments throughout her pregnancy. This explains why Liberia has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. Every other minute, a woman or girl dies as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications in Liberia. In fact, the country’s maternal death rate stands at a whooping 1,072 per every 100,000 births.
Healthcare practitioners and statisticians as well as demographers have described the current state of the country’s maternal healthcare delivery as alarming, appalling and devastating. These descriptions are also backed by staggering statistics on this scourge of death that terrorizes our mothers. A 2018 WHO report states that at least 1,072 women die per 100,000 live births, giving Liberia one of the world’s worse t maternal mortality rates.
Granted, the conflict-ravaged country is still recovering from a devastating 14- year civil war which destroyed all of its health centers and road networks. However, the few renovated and operating health facilities are not within the reach of the vast majority of the population. Only a handful of the population lives less than 10 kilo meters from a health facility. This inaccessibility has resulted in majority of births occurring in the homes, usually attended by unsupervised traditional midwives—a common practice in remote areas where infrastructure and facilities are most lacking. These rural communities are heavily reliant on the services of unskilled birth attendants.
Fortunately, majority of these maternal deaths can be prevented. The Liberian government must ensure that an expectant mother’s hopeless financial situation does not determine her pregnancy’s outcome.
The government must invest in health workers and strengthen the country’s healthcare delivery system, so that everyday, everywhere across the country, all women and newborns will have access to lifesaving care. It is also expected that the government will strengthen areas such as surveillance, quality of care, monitoring and evaluation to improve chances of reducing the country’s soaring maternal death rate. Our mothers deserve better, not death while giving life.
Bijou was a resident of Monrovia’s New Georgia community. She was respectful, a dedicated wife and mother of three uber gorgeous girls. She was loved and is missed dearly.