Each year in Liberia, 14% of babies are born too small, weighing less than 5.5 pounds. Complications due to low birth weight (LBW) in newborns can cause a series of problems including increased vulnerability to infectious diseases and, in some cases, death. One of the leading causes of LBW in newborns in Liberia is poor maternal nutrition, most notably from deficiencies in essential vitamins during pregnancy. Global evidence shows that women who receive micronutrient supplements during pregnancy are less likely to deliver LBW babies (Smith, ER et al. 2017).
Project Concern International’s Every Preemie—SCALE Project (Every Preemie) partnered with Kirk Humanitarian, Jhpiego via the USAID Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP)/Liberia, and the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) to combat these alarmingly high rates of LBW by delivering vitamins to pregnant and lactating mothers in Liberia.
“This is an exciting new collaboration that will add great value to Liberia’s prenatal care program and, most importantly, to the beneficiaries, moms and newborns,” said Judith Robb-McCord, senior director of Every Preemie—SCALE. “In Liberia, we have seen significant improvement in the number of women who attend at least one prenatal care visit. Nearly all pregnant women go for at least one prenatal visit and nearly 80 percent attend at least four prenatal care visits. These vitamins will be distributed by the MOHSW to pregnant women who come for prenatal care and will ensure improved health outcomes for their newborns.”
Project Concern International (PCI) has a longstanding relationship with Kirk Humanitarian and over the years, through this partnership, PCI has provided more than 580,000 bottles of prenatal and children’s multivitamins to six countries, including Botswana, Guatemala, Liberia, Malawi, Zambia and Haiti.
“Children are the most precious commodity on planet Earth. As such, Kirk Humanitarian has a philosophy and goal of ‘ensuring that each child at birth has a fair chance at life,’” said Spencer Kirk, the founder and managing director of Kirk Humanitarian. “With this philosophy and help from NGOs like PCI, we are trying to ensure that pregnant women and their children live healthier lives.”
With approval from the MOHSW, Every Preemie coordinated with Kirk Humanitarian to ship 64,800 bottles of prenatal vitamins from its factory in Tigard, Oregon, to Port Monrovia, Liberia. The vitamins were shipped in early August and arrived in Liberia in November. MCSP/Liberia then facilitated the importation of the vitamin shipment at Port Monrovia and organized its transfer to the MOHSW.
The vitamins were formally received by the MOHSW and will be distributed by the MOH throughout 2018. Through this public-private partnership, these vitamins will deliver critical nutrients to pregnant and lactating women in some of Liberia’s hardest-to-reach communities and will improve the health and well-being of pregnant and lactating women and their babies.