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A Chinese delegation led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has wrapped up a visit to Sierra Leone, for getting a better understanding of the maternal and child health situations there, for the implementation of a South-South Cooperation project funded by China.

The project, namely “Improving women’s health in Sierra Leone: Reaching vulnerable women at high risk of maternal mortality and cervical cancer”, will be implemented in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, through UNFPA – the United Nations agency dedicating to achieving three transformative results – zero preventable maternal death, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls. 

Hunan Maternal and Child Health Hospital, a tertiary Chinese provincial maternal and child health hospital established in 1947, has been identified as the national partner for the project.
From 26 January to 2 February, the delegation met UNFPA Office in Sierra Leone, senior government officials, NGO representatives, journalists, the Chinese embassy and medical team from Hunan province of China – which provides critical health care services to the local population.

In the meeting with Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Minister Dr. Alpha Wurie expressed his gratitude to UNFPA and the Chinese government for their commitment to improve women’s health in Sierra Leone. He mentioned the country’s Ebola outbreak period, when UNFPA and the Chinese medical team played a key role in sustaining the availability of health services.

In Sierra Leone, it is estimated that more than 1,300 women die per every 100,000 births every year, the highest in the world - while in China, the ratio is 19.6 per 100,000. The country is in high demand of skilled health workers including midwives who can manage high-risk pregnancies.

During visit to the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital, the Chinese medical team expressed their interest in cooperating with UNFPA and Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation in conducting technical trainings to local service providers. 

At Princess Christian Memorial Hospital and local community health centers, the delegation talked with healthcare workers and local women to understand their concerns and needs on safe motherhood. Hemorrhage, hypertension, sepsis, and obstructed labor were reported as the major causes of women’s death during pregnancies and deliveries in Sierra Leone.

The delegation also exchanged ideas with Marie Stopes International (MSI), an NGO that provides care directly through its cancer screening clinic in Sierra Leone. Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in Sierra Leone. Although the country has stepped up efforts to strengthen cervical cancer prevention, screening and management, awareness on and access to the screening programme are still limited.

The first-hand information and insights garnered from the mission will be used as reference for the project implementation.

Mr. Wang Liang, Deputy Division Director for the MCH Department of the National Health Commission of China, Ms. Wang Hua, Deputy Director and Ms. Zeng Ting, International Cooperation Programme Officer of the Hunan MCH Hospital, together with Mr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA Representative and Mr. Peng Jiong, UNFPA Assistant Representative joined in the familiarization tour from China.