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January 25, 2013 – On the African continent, Liberia is still recovering from the catastrophic aftereffects of a civil war where women and the young have paid the conflict’s highest price: death. Due to a fragile health care system, Liberian pregnant mothers and their newborns have lost their lives during the birthing process at an astounding rate.
Two Fort Valley State University professors— Dr. Komanduri S. Murty, behavioral sciences professor, and Dr. Jimmy McCamey, behavioral sciences chair—are hopeful their research will help curb maternal mortality rates. Their study entitled, “Maternal Health and Maternal Mortality in Post War Liberia: A Survey Analysis,” will be published as a book chapter in Applied Demographics in April 2013.
“Publication of this research and findings are important, not just for us, but for bringing awareness among the international organizations and policy makers about the dire situations of the issue,” said Murty. “Even though the war has ended ten years ago, in 2003, the maternal mortality rate keeps increasing. Roughly four women die every day as a result of pregnancy-related causes, and about 15 infants die at childbirth. Many women have no access to required health care and many hospitals are understaffed. It is about time this issue is addressed at national and international levels.”
The United Negro College Fund Special Programs financed the Liberian study, which began as a partnership between Rust College of Holly Springs, Miss. and CuttingtonUniversity College in Suakoko, Liberia. Since its inception, the UNCFSP has promoted collaborative relationships between historically black colleges and universities, non-HBCUs within the U.S., and International Higher Education systems.
Murty has a long-standing relationship with the UNCFSP and has collaborated on several research projects that include Strengthening State Governance in Nigeria: An Evaluation of Workshop on Roles, Responsibilities and Challenges Facing State Governments in a Democratic Society, and The UNCFSP Global Center Partnerships Evaluation Report.
“The goal of the program,” according to Murty, “is to create an intervention that would improve the quality of health services delivered in rural and agrarian communities for women who were still recovering from a two-decade-long civil war.”
Murty began collecting data for this research study while he was a Visiting Fellow for the United Negro College Fund in fall 2006. At the time, he was on sabbatical from his position as a professor at Clark Atlanta University. Because of his research expertise in research design and statistical data analysis, Murty was contacted by the UNCF Special Programs to assist with the Liberian research initiative.
When the professor became a behavioral studies professor at FVSU, he invitedMcCamey to collaborate with him on the ongoing UNCFSP study.
To assess prenatal health care within the country, Murty and McCamey examined data from two surveys. The first survey targeted women, including those who were currently pregnant, had children, or were female relatives of pregnant women or mothers. The second survey involved the nation’s health care providers. UNCFSP sent surveys designed by Murty to a researcher at Cuttington College in Suakoko, Liberia, who supervised the data collection from the study subjects via trained interviewers
“Our database consists of survey responses from 277 Liberian women, ages 13 to 49, pertaining to their health and reproductive issues over a 10 year period,” said McCamey.
The researchers surveyed participants. Besides statistical questions, women were asked questions to help them assess the conditions of health care for pregnant women and maternal mortality rates within Liberia. The subjects were asked about the number of pregnancies they have had and the number of living children. Additionally, participants were questioned about the status and extent of prenatal care they obtained from health workers.
In addition to the survey, Murty and McCamey also analyzed statistical data relating to births. Their findings were explosive. They found that the percentage of women dying of maternal causes to be twenty-two, with an even higher death rate among young women aged 15 to19 years.
Additionally, the professors found that more than 60 percent of Liberian women did not receive prenatal care. Of the 936 pregnancies reported in the survey, more than 751 were live births. Only 615 children survived, and 185 children lost their lives.
“We found there were no advanced technologies to help them,” said Murty. “There was no prenatal support. Most lacked professional health care, and they didn’t receive medical care from physicians or medically trained people.”
“In America, we don’t have issues like this because we have the technology to address that,” said McCamey.
Murty and McCamey provided several solutions to this problem to reduce maternal mortality rates, including sending health care providers to Liberia to help advance their doctor’s medical training.
For more information about the study, contact Murty at (478) 825-6624, or McCamey at (478) 825-6800.
Christina Milton, writer
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