Market Day in Liberia: Salt, Palm Oil and Expanded Family Planning Services

August 7, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, News

Market Day in Liberia: Salt, Palm Oil and Expanded Family Planning Services

Buchanan, Liberia-When Marwo Weagai opens for business at the local market here, she sells bags of salt, bottles of palm oil and dried spices-and also offers free family planning (FP) advice and supplies to interested shoppers. Marwo is among 22 market vendors participating in an innovative program in three counties in Liberia to increase women’s access to FP counseling and services.

Many of the market vendors know from personal experience the challenges faced by Liberian women who want a safe and reliable method to plan their families. For example, long lines at health facilities are a deterrent to accessing services for women who are busy caring for and trying to support their growing families. In Liberia, the average number of children per family is five. And, according to the latest Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS 2007), the unmet need for contraceptives is 36 percent. Moreover, the maternal mortality ratio is 994 per 100,000 live births-one of the highest in the world.

To address these issues, Jhpiego-through the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP)-partnered with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and developed an innovative program to train women who work in the markets to be FP peer counselors and providers. Their market stalls are now posted with signs that say “Free Family Planning Services.”

In Grand Bassa, the volunteer counselors promote healthy behaviors and provide counseling, condoms and refills for contraceptive pills; they refer first-time users to a health facility.

“I like and enjoy this program, because it has increased my knowledge on family planning,” says Marwo, who also talks with family and neighbors outside the market about their FP options and encourages them to visit her stall in the market. “Every morning, when I come and put my market wares on the table, I go around talking to my peers about FP; those who are interested and are continuous users come for refills, and new clients, I encourage them to go to any government health facility of their choice for FP services.”

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