When Emma Vah, 40, visited the Careysburg clinic in Montserrado County, Liberia, for antenatal care, she received comprehensive quality services related to the prevention of malaria in pregnancy (MIP).
Malaria is endemic in her country, with transmission occurring year-round, and pregnant women like her are at great risk of severe disease and death. Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) is recommended to prevent the adverse outcomes of malaria for mothers and their unborn children. However, uptake of this intervention has been limited due to a lack of awareness among pregnant women of the benefits of IPTp.
Implemented by Jhpiego and partners, the Strategic Technical Assistance for Improved Health System Performance and Health Outcomes (STAIP) Activity is working with the Ministry of Health through the National Malaria Control Program. This four-year project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is improving service providers’ ability to communicate the benefits of IPTp. Midwife Sieneh Borbor, who welcomed Vah to the Careysburg clinic, is a beneficiary of training, supportive supervision and mentoring by STAIP.
Borbor, along with health care providers from various counties across Liberia, recently participated in skills-building classes in the prevention of MIP.
The training for Borbor and colleagues highlighted the importance of providing IPTp to pregnant women during antenatal care beginning at 13 weeks, and then every four weeks until delivery.
Now, unlike at her previous practice, Borbor takes time to explain to pregnant women why IPTp is so important to their health and that of their babies. She also provides a warm and friendly environment for Vah to pose questions, and competently responds to them.
Vah’s first antenatal visit during this pregnancy—her fourth—presented an opportunity for the midwife to make sure the expectant mother clearly understood the preventive benefits of taking sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine tablets.
“Since I became pregnant, I have been coming here for my check-ups,” Vah says, referring to the clinic.
“When I reached three months, the midwife gave me three tablets, which she said will stop me and my unborn baby from getting malaria. She also said that I will continue to take this medicine until it is time to have the baby. I am very happy for this medicine because malaria is one sickness that gives pregnant women a hard time here in Liberia.’’Emma Vah
STAIP has supported the National Malaria Control Program to update malaria training modules and trained 139 professional staff, including midwives, nurses and physician assistants, working in 49 public and 45 private health facilities in Montserrado County on the updated guidelines for prevention of MIP. Montserrado County now reports that 25 percent of pregnant women attending antenatal care have received three or more doses of IPTp, representing a 9 percent increase during the most recent quarter (April–June 2021) compared to the previous quarter prior to training.
As part of the programming, health facilities received reference copies of the national guidelines and job aids for prevention of MIP. Service providers’ interpersonal communication skills in counseling pregnant women about malaria prevention will continue to be refreshed regularly through supportive supervision and mentorship visits by county supervisors.
Jethro Warner Saye Zawolo is the malaria program advisor for Jhpiego in Liberia.
Varwo S. Gbassie is a county malaria advisor for Jhpiego in Montserrado, Liberia.
Photo credits: Karel Prinsloo