He added, “This Government has made tremendous progress in providing effective and efficient health care to meet the needs of citizens. Thanks to DFID and UNFPA for helping to refurbish and equip Rokupa Hospital. This is a strategic partnership we very much want to keep.”
Located in the Western Urban District, Freetown, Rokupa hospital will serve a projected catchment population of 27,460, and an expected 6,315 women of reproductive age. The facility will provide the full range of reproductive maternal and newborn health care, comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care as well as in-patient and outpatient services. Construction commenced in 2017 and is now complete with consulting rooms, emergency ward, labour and delivery ward, postnatal ward, theatre, surgical ward and a special baby care unit. It has an operating theatre to support surgical interventions including caesarian section and is expected to contribute to improved health outcomes for pregnant women in the catchment area and beyond. The new hospital will serve as a maternal newborn and child health centre of excellence.
In her opening address, DFID Country Representative, Ms. Kobi Bentley remarked, “I am proud that the UK, working with the Government of Sierra Leone and UNFPA, has supported the construction of the Rokupa Maternity and Child hospital, with over $1.5 million from our Saving Lives in Sierra Leone programme. The hospital will offer a range of services to expectant mothers and their infants, including emergency maternal, obstetric and neonatal care and so will help to address the high rates of maternal and child mortality that Sierra Leone faces. The UK remains a committed partner of the Government in its journey towards a healthier, more prosperous Sierra Leone.”
Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, estimated at 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births. One in 17 women bear a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, Sierra Leone has very high child, infant, and neonatal mortality rates: 156, 92, and 39 per 1,000 live births, respectively.
Several assessments conducted by the Government revealed that very few facilities in Sierra Leone met the minimum standards to provide the signal functions for emergency obstetric and newborn care, which are critical to saving the lives of women and their newborns. For most of these facilities, the key challenges included the lack of adequate infrastructure to provide quality maternal and newborn health care services; inadequate availability of equipment for assisted deliveries or caesarean sections; inadequate lifesaving drugs; insufficient number of skilled and competent personnel, especially those with midwifery skills and lack of fully functioning blood or laboratory services.
An assessment carried out in 2016 by UNFPA revealed the poor quality of care provided by some of the health facilities in the country, resulting in avoidable maternal and newborn deaths. To ameliorate the situation, UNFPA, with funds from the Department for International Development’s (DfID) Saving Lives Project, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, constructed, refurbished, and equipped eight facilities. These facilities, including Rokupa and King Harman Road Hospitals and six community health centres, now provide basic and or comprehensive emergency obstetric and new born care to required international standards.
To ensure good quality maternal, neonatal and child health services, UNFPA, with the support of DFID, procured and delivered equipment and supplies including maternity ward beds, delivery beds, ultrasound machines, cardiotocographs, blood pressure machines, normal and assisted delivery equipment, theatre equipment, resuscitation and sterilization equipment. UNFPA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, also supported the training of 21 staff of Rokupa hospital in quality improvement principles, concepts and strategies, with a focus on improving quality of care in maternal, newborn and child health.
In addition to the construction of health facilities and provision of equipment, with UK aid funding, under the Saving Lives in Sierra Leone Programme, UNFPA is supporting the training of midwives in all three midwifery schools in the country.
In her concluding remarks, UNFPA Sierra Leone Country Representative, Dr. Kim Eva Dickson said, “UNFPA will continue to provide technical, financial and logistical support to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to improve access to quality sexual and reproductive health services in the country as part of the quest for Universal Health Care. I have no doubt that this newly constructed Rokupa hospital will contribute significantly to improving maternal, newborn and child health outcomes in Sierra Leone.”