Two Liberian Nurses on Why They Are Grateful for Family Planning Support
October 9, 2019
by Guest Contributor
By Jerilyn Hoover
I was curious to talk to nurses Philomena Diggs and Yenneh Flomo to find out directly from them why they are so grateful for outside support to help women time and space pregnancies in Liberia. They sent me the photos above to help explain the work they do. At left, Korpo Zayzay, a midwife at a Christian Health Association of Liberia member health facility provides oral contraceptives to a client, and Dorgbah Sorso, a nurse, gives a contraceptive injection to a client (right). This type of care is important to Philomena and Yenneh because it means women will be able to time and space pregnancies to protect their health and the health of their children.
As nurses who work as County Field Officers for the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL), they supervise CHAL’s faith-based health facilities. They both work in the counties they grew up in: Philomena in Grand Bassa County and Yenneh in Lofa County.
CHAL Family Planning Work
CHAL works in health facilities and in communities. They improve quality of care in health facilities by working on infection control, psychosocial aspects of care, and providing training on maternal and child health. Through community education volunteers, CHAL provides information about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, also known as family planning, in individual communities. Bread for the World Germany and funding from the German government support CHAL family planning programs.
“Family planning is important because it helps to space children. Families can also decide when they want to have their children, because if you do not space your children you may not be able to support all of them,” said Philomena.
“Family planning is important socially and economically,” said Yenneh. “Socially you will be able to have time for yourself, and to be able to work to help the family. Economically, you can provide for the children you have and be able to work and save some money to take care of the children you have given birth to.”
Challenges to Accessing Family Planning
Yenneh and Philomena said that everyone has their own beliefs about family planning. According to the nurses, some families view family planning as a taboo and in some communities, it is forbidden to not give birth to as many children as possible. They also noted that distances to health facilities are a major challenge. Women may have to walk two to three hours to a facility to receive family planning services, which can deter them from seeking services. Even if women can get to facilities, sometimes commodities are not available. Additionally, the nurses have encountered that knowledge and awareness about family planning in Liberia is not nationally widespread.
Personal Impact of Family Planning
“I am an example,” Philomena said. “Family planning helped me build my own life and not give birth to children I couldn’t manage.” She said family planning services were the reason she was able to complete her education and become a nurse. Yenneh shared that she has been able to provide for her two children because she spaced her pregnancies.
Gratefulness for Family Planning Funding
Yenneh and Philomena said that many families are very grateful for the family planning services that have helped them have the number of children that was right for their family. The nurses said they are grateful to God for outside funding for family planning. These services have helped the people of Liberia and reduced maternal deaths and cases of abortion because of unwanted pregnancies. They said they hope and pray that organizations and governments supporting family planning will continue their support until Liberia can provide family planning services independently.
Jerilyn Hoover, BSN, RN is a CCIH member and a MPH candidate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.