River Cess Tries Injection Birth Control Administered by Community Health Assistants

CESTOS, River Cess—The River Cess County Health Team has completed a day-long ‘training of trainers’ workshop for Community Health Services supervisors as it plans to unveil a new birth control method to the public – the Sayana Press.

According to county health authorities, the Sayana Press is an easy-to-use hormonal injection birth control method that can be taken every three months to prevent pregnancies. The product comes with a small needle that goes into the fatty layer of the skin and will be administered by community health assistants.

Andrew Gueh, the director of community health services in River Cess, told The Bush Chicken that the training will be rolled out to community health assistants by supervisors beginning January 24 at five different training sites in the county.

“This is a modern type of family planning that is being introduced by the Ministry of Health and UNFPA [the United Nations Population Fund],” Gueh said. “It has been used in other parts of the world but this is its first try in Liberia, and River Cess is the first county.”

Gueh said on Monday, January 21, stakeholders held a meeting where concept notes were shared on the device. The second day brought together Community health Services supervisors. Gueh further noted that the pilot phase is for one year “and if it works well, it will be extended to other counties.”

Andrew Gueh is the head of community health in River Cess. Photo: Eric Opa Doue.

Farzee P. Johnson, the reproductive health supervisor of the River Cess County Health Team, said the county was selected for the pilot because it is the only county where the community health assistant program exists in all seven health districts.

Another reason, according to Johnson, is “the high maternal death rate in the county.” River Cess reported four maternal deaths in 2017 and five in 2018 according to Johnson. She attributed the relatively high maternal deaths in the county to low use of family planning.

She said there are few functional maternal waiting homes in the county, but even then, many women are not making use of these structures constructed near health facilities to accommodate pregnant women. Because River Cess is one of the least urbanized counties, these homes are for women coming from more than a five-kilometer radius away. They usually visit the maternal waiting home in their ninth month.

“Right now, home delivery is on the increase because the people are not making use of the facilities,” Johnson said. “And the home deliveries are some factors responsible for the maternal deaths.”

She hopes the new birth control method, can increase access for people who may not want to become pregnant and reduce the number of pregnancies and maternal deaths. Currently, family planning methods such as the depo shot (a similar injection shot that has to be administered by a professional as opposed to community health assistants), a five-year intrauterine device, and condoms, are available to River Cess residents free of charge.

For the one-year Sayana Press pilot, Johnson said 100 of the 287 community health assistants in the county would be selected.

“We don’t want people missing out their injection because they didn’t go to the facilities,” she said.

Farzee P. Johnson is River Cess’ Reproductive Health Supervisor. Photo: Eric Opa Doue.

There are 24 community health services supervisors, 287 community health assistants, and 6 quality assurance officers working in River Cess. The county has 20 functional health facilities, 6 health districts, 72 nurses, and 2 medical doctors. The St. Francis Hospital is the only referral hospital.

Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue.

Eric Doue

Eric Opa Doue is a co-founder of Echo Radio Station, which does a series of programs in Bassa, Kru, and simple Liberian English. Under his leadership, Echo Radio was selected as one of the Moody Radio global partners for training opportunities in 2013 and 2014. Eric was one of a handful of reporters who received training from Internews in 2015 on humanitarian reporting during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He holds a diploma in Journalism, from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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