Deputy Minister Howard Wants Mothers to Prioritize Breastfeeding

As Liberia celebrates this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, the Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Health, Madam Norwu G. Howard, has called on mothers, especially the young ones, to prioritize breastfeeding to help keep their babies happy and smart.

She said the lack of priority for breastfeeding, especially during the early age of a child, contributes to poor nutrition and reduces children’s ability. 

“We want mothers, especially the younger ones, to prioritize breastfeeding,” she said.

Hon. Howard made the statement over the weekend in Paynesville at a program marking the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week in Liberia.

According to her, breastfeeding remains important as breast milk helps keep babies healthy, smart, and strong. 

“The week is aimed at educating new mothers about the importance of breastfeeding,” she explained.

Min. Howard used the occasion to call on the legislative branch of the Liberian government to protect women’s rights and implement breastfeeding at the community level.

She disclosed that significant efforts have been made in recent years by the government of Liberia with support from its development partners to improve nutrition.

The Deputy Minister, then, praised WaterAid, ActionAid, the World Health Organization, IrishAid, and other local and international organizations for their continuous support to the Liberian government in the areas of nutrition and health.

Speaking at the event, UNICEF Deputy Country Representative, Amadou A. Sesay expressed his institution’s continuous commitment to the Liberian government.

He said UNICEF still remains committed to strengthening ties with the Liberian government to making sure that the targeted goals for health for the government are realized.

For her part, Teta Lincoln, Senior Advisor for Health and Nutrition at the Embassy of Ireland, said the embassy was pleased to celebrate the historic event along with the government.

She urged Liberians to do more to raise breastfeeding awareness, emphasizing that Ireland, as a partner, will continue to assist the government in the area of nutrition.

As for WaterAid Liberia Country Director, Chuchu Selma, noted that his organization was gratified to be a part of such an event.

Selma admonishes new mothers to always wash their hands before breastfeeding their children.

According to him, WaterAid has been providing support to the sector as a means of improving nutrition in the country.

“We are committed to assisting the government in promoting and improving the issue of nutrition in Liberia,” Selma said.

Also speaking, River Cess County District#2 Representative Byron Zahnwea, who is a member of the WASH Legislative Caucus, described breastfeeding as a key to every child’s health.

“We want to encourage each and every one of us that we need from our homes to preach the message of breastfeeding,” Rep. Zahnwea said.

The Director of Nutrition at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Annette Brimah-Davis, commended the Ministry and the development partners for their support for the nutritional division in improving breastfeeding and child growth.

“This Celebration is in line with the World Protocol of Breastfeeding that officially started on August 1—7.” Davis said.

Meanwhile, Sinoe County District #2 Representative, Samson Wiah, has urged the authorities at the Ministry of Health to make the issue of breastfeeding a part of its decentralization process.

Wiah encouraged the Health Ministry to reach areas in the rural parts of the country where health workers would be able to organize similar events.

The inaugural World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) was in August of 1992, with a focus on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is the organization behind WBW and was formed in 1991, the day after Valentine’s Day.

WABA collaborates with WHO and UNICEF, agreeing that breastfeeding is a human right of mothers and children.

Each year, WABA promotes a focus for World Breastfeeding Week, such as “The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, The First Hour, and Exclusive Breastfeeding.”

In 1989, WHO and UNICEF released a joint statement titled “Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting Breastfeeding.” 

This year, the week was observed under the theme: “Step Up for Breastfeeding, Educate and Support.”

Signed: Felecia Gbesioh

           Director of Communications

           MOH/ LR

219 Persons Benefit From Free Cataract Surgery in Kolahun

At least 219 persons including elders, women, girls and children are said to be in total relief following a successful conduct of a free cataract surgery in Kolahun, Lofa County.

The five days free Cataract surgery was conducted by the New Sight Eye Center (NSEC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) with support from the Samaritan’s Purse (SP).

The exercise follows a pre-screening process of 1,447 patients from five rural communities that include Foyah, Kolahun, Massambolahun, Kamatahun, and Bolahun all in Lofa County.

The mission according to the surgical team headed by Dr. Joseph L. Kerhula, National Eye Program Manager, at the Ministry of Health (MOH) started in 2019 with River Cess County. The 5 days exercise is also part of the team’s third surgical outreach program in Lofa County.

The free cataract surgery is said to have brought relief to too many people in the County who could not afford. Most of them who are visually impair were able to visit the surgical  site to seek solutions to their eye problem, while others have been moving from one place to another but could not get a solution.

At the end of the 5days surgery, Robert Dolo, CEO of the NSEC provided update. “This mission has been very challenging but we are grateful that we are working towards achieving our goal.” We started in 2019 with Samaritan’s Purse being the sponsor for this program. We have visited almost every part of the country except Bomi County,” he stated.

However, the surgical outreach team according to Dolo is expected to take its next outreach to Bomi County soon. The team goes into rural communities to basically screen patients with eyes problems and those that are blind from cataract.

During the free surgical outreach patients were provided surgical care service including health education, food and medication, glasses among other services. Dolo further disclosed that on the average the team has been able to screen over ten thousand (10,000) persons since the project started.

Those who were operated on were given a schedule for a follow-up to ensure that they get the necessary medical attention after their surgery. However, those who had complications according to Dolo with support from partners will be able to address their problems.

He also indicated that over the last four years the team was able to operate approximately two thousand persons. “We are glad that with the support of our partners we can do this for the people of Lofa.” Surgeons were also able to screened about three thousand persons from those five rural communities in Lofa. “We have been able to see people using country medicines (herbs) this has spoiled some of their eyes, so we provided health education to help them,” he. added.

Most of the cases they encountered during the surgical outreach in Lofa were cataracts and glaucoma as well. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a verve in the back of your eye called the Optic. Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph L. Kerkula, National Eye Program Manager, at the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the presence of the cataracts surgical outreach team to rural communities in Lofa county means a lot, especially having such service to the disposal of the people. “The team was overwhelmed with the level of reception and turnout.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph L. Kerkula, National Eye Program Manager, at the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the presence of the cataracts surgical outreach team to rural communities in Lofa county means a lot, especially having such service to the disposal of the people. “The team was overwhelmed with the level of reception and turnout.”

Dr. Kekula also stressed the importance of focusing on people who are visually impair, because they are more venerable in society. According to him, it is critical to have an eye clinic in Lofa County, “adding that this exercise should serve as a wakeup call for policy makers (Lawmakers) to support eye care services in Liberia.”

These people cannot leave from here to go as far as Monrovia for surgery looking at the economy challenged and therefore establishing an eye clinic in Kolahun and other areas will be a major achievement, “Dr. Kekula added.

Success Story

James B. Marwolo 66, and his son Thomas Marwolo 41, were amongst the 219 persons who benefited from the rural cataracts surgery in Kolahun Lofa County. Mr. Marwolo for over 5years could not support his family as a result of the cataract infections, an eye disease that is curable. It is also the leading cause of blindness in Liberia and if nothing is done to clear the cataract backlog there would be more people going blind. The surgeries conducted by the NSEC in partnership with the MOH with support from (SP) was as a result of citizen’s demand in the quest to restore their sight. 

Mr. Marwolo work as a (Nurse/disperser) at one of the clinics around Kolahun, for half a decade now he could not discharge his duty as a nurse due to the situation. But seeing the rural cataract surgical team’s presences in Kolahun was a dawning of a new day for him and his son (Thomas). Following a successful surgeries they expressed excitement and described the Samaritans’ Purse as a true representation of God. “We are so happy to regain our sight. This is like a dream for me and my Son, I am so grateful for this,” he said.

12years old Jeremiah A. Kollie, and 12years old Mobwie Joseph were also among four kids who went under a successful cataract surgery. Little Kollie is a 6grade student at the Fasavolu Public school. For more than 2years now Little Jeremiah Kollie has been finding it so difficult in school as a result of the cataract infection. “I couldn’t see clearly on the blackboard before, at times I used to beg my friends to write for me but today thank God,” he narrated.  

While Mobwie Joseph (Female) is a 2nd grade student, she was excited when she told her mother, “Oh! Mama I can see clear now,” she told her mother.  Little Mobwie seem eager to learn, but due to cataract infections she could not continue. “I dropped from school for 2years every time I got to class tears rolls down my cheek.”

Signed: Felecia Gbesioh

           Director of Communications

           MOH/ LR