Thousands unite to end maternal mortality in Sierra Leone
Over 4,000 people gathered in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Tuesday to attend the launch of Amnesty International's campaign to end maternal mortality in the country. Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan, told the assembled crow that having a baby should be a very happy occasion, “but, in so many houses it becomes a very sad occasion. “Is this inevitable?” she asked the crowd. “No. It can be prevented. Women must not die giving birth, “That’s why we’re here. That’s why you’re here. We want all women to have free healthcare.” The director of Amnesty International section in Sierra Leone, Brima Sheriff, urged those present to sign a petition to the government demanding improved maternal healthcare. He explained that Amnesty International will campaign for the next six years to reduce maternal deaths in the country. The crowd was entertained by some of Sierra Leone’s top artists, who performed a song lamenting the preventable deaths of women and girls during pregnancy and childbirth. The artists were joined by Nollywood actress Omotola Jakande Ekeinde, a major movie star in West Africa, who has been helping Amnesty International raise awareness in the region on maternal mortality as a human rights issue. A play by a talented local theatre group graphically portrayed the consequences of leaving medical assistance too late. In Sierra Leone, many women are unable to access lifesaving medical care because their healthcare needs are not prioritized and the family fears the cost of hospital treatment. Amnesty International’s Campaign Caravan – an enormous yellow truck carrying a stage – will tour the country raising awareness of maternal deaths as a human rights issue within Sierra Leone and demanding improved healthcare services from the government. After the launch in Freetown, the Caravan will continue to the towns of Kabala and Kambia and Bo and Kenema.