Reinvigorated activity among midwives in Liberia after 14 years of civil war: P Annie Clark of the American College of Nurse Midwives visited Liberia in summer 2006 on behalf of ICM and found midwives working hard for their association.

Author:Clark, P. Annie

Originally set up as a nation for people freed from slavery, Liberia has suffered from internal unrest and civil war for much of the past two decades. However, since the institution of democratic elections in 2005 and the inauguration of the first female African head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president, there has been some increased stability in this West African country.

The war that lasted from 1989 to 2003 had an extremely negative impact on the entire country, severely damaging its infrastructure. The postal service is limited and unreliable; electricity is only available part of the time; the telephone service is limited to cell phones (for those who can afford them); roads have been badly damaged, and many buildings were looted and destroyed.

Approximately 300,000 people were killed, and many others were left seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, the USA, Canada or Great Britain. It is estimated that over 70% of the refugees are women and children.

The Liberian Midwives Association

The Liberian Midwives Association (LMA) has been in existence since 1956. Certified midwives and nurse-midwives are members of LMA, and trained traditional midwives (TTMs) are associate members, with a total membership of over 750. The LMA originally became a member of the ICM in 1982, but communication has been difficult for much of that time.

Officers of the association are elected by the membership for a term of two years, renewable for up to six years, and service as an officer is voluntary. The LMA has no office premises, so LMA paperwork is kept by the secretary, Lucy Bahr, at her own home.

Prior to the civil war, there was a branch of LMA in each of the 15 counties of Liberia. Although there are still members throughout the country, there are now no branches of LMA, and LMA is centred in the capital city, Monrovia.

Owing to the war, the LMA had not met regularly since 1989. However, meetings resumed after the last escalation of conflict in 2003. Since that time, the TTMs had been holding some meetings separately from the LMA midwives, but the president of LMA is now promoting joint meetings of the midwives and TTMs.

Meetings are scheduled once a month at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Hospital (JFK) in Monrovia, and an annual convention is held in November.

The LMA seeks to have midwife representatives at the annual convention from each of the 15 counties, but it is difficult at the moment for midwives from remote areas to attend...

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