In January I wrote that I would be looking closely at the effect of Ebola on maternal health and mortality in the Ebola-affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Today unfortunate news was released by the World Bank and The Lancet.
According to the new report, Health-care worker mortality and the legacy of the Ebola epidemic and New Wave of Deaths From Ebola?: The Impact of Health Care Worker Mortality (PDF), it is estimated that 4,022 more women will die during childbirth in these countries on top of their already high maternal mortality rate due to the deaths of 240 health workers (doctors, nurses, and midwives) collectively across all three countries. Liberia lost the most health workers at 83. Guinea lost 78 and Sierra Leone lost 79 health workers. That translates to an increase of maternal deaths by 38% in Guinea, 74% in Sierra Leone, and 111% in Liberia. Due to the nature of health work a disproportionate rate of health workers died during the Ebola epidemic as opposed to the general population. Those health workers, of course, were critical to the health systems in all three countries whose systems were already on troubled ground before Ebola ravaged west Africa.
“The loss of health workers to Ebola could increase maternal deaths up to rates last seen in these countries 15-20 years ago,” says Markus Goldstein, Lead Economist at the World Bank Group and a co-author of the report who heads the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab.
To curb this tragedy the World Bank says 240 health workers will need to be hired across the three countries in order to save mothers’ and newborns’ lives.
“These countries require urgent investment in health systems starting with a substantial increase in the number of trained health workers,” says Dr. Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group. “This is to ensure that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are not only equipped to deal with future deadly epidemics but that every day, mothers have access to the quality health care they need that will save their lives and prepare them for a more promising future.”
Photo: Health workers at Magbenteh Ebola Treatment Centre in Makeni, Sierra Leone, at the time of a visit from Anthony Banbury, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). UN Photo/Martine Perret