Some pregnant women resident in Bong County have said they now go to bed on empty stomach, as they and their breadwinners are confined to their homes due the ongoing lockdown which the government has imposed to stem the spread of the COVID-19 in Liberia.
This is a cause for concern, physicians say, as the situation may increase Liberia’s already high maternal and infant mortality rate.
FrontPageAfrica Tuesday spoke with some pregnant women, who claimed that they are going through tough time, even as they complain of restlessness, weakness and tiredness due to hunger.
A 32-year-old mother of two, who is pregnant with her third child, Mrs. Beatrice Kommeh, told our reporter that if she knew that things would be so difficult for her and her family this period, she would not have gotten pregnant.
The Bong housewife, who is five months pregnant, said the lockdown has denied her access to balanced diet as her husband, a painter, has been out of job since the lockdown began.
“We now feed from hand to mouth,” Beatrice says. “I manage to eat once a day. Breakfast and dinner are unaffordable; and even the food we manage to eat is mainly rice. The situation is making me restless.
“The suffering is too much. I pray that hunger will not finish me with this pregnancy because, these days, I easily become tired and weak,” she says.
Another woman, Mrs. Nowai Kollie, 28, who is four months pregnant, says the lockdown has inflicted poverty on her family. The mother-of-three says she and her husband weren’t prepared for the lockdown.
“There was no food in the house when the government announced the first lockdown. While we were struggling to come out of it, the government extended it for 14 days. I almost fainted when I heard of it.
“I only managed to eat once a day now, and I’m tired of what I’m eating. “Today rice, tomorrow spaghetti, and the day after tomorrow hunger. What type of life is that?
“No money to buy fruit and vegetables that are good for pregnant women. Sometimes, when my body is shaking, my neighbors will tell me that it is hunger.
“Sometimes, they help me with food whenever hunger wants to kill me. My husband is a taxi driver and traffic not flowing like before.”
“My pregnancy will be five months next week, yet we can’t make plans for antenatal registration and care because there is no money. The situation is biting harder,” she says.
Mrs. Jessica Peters, 36, another pregnant woman, is seven months gone. “I struggle to feed twice daily, but the major problem is that I have not bought any baby things and there is no money!
“The little money that I saved for baby things was spent on food during the first lockdown; and my husband is currently unemployed.
“My husband sells second-hand clothing at Gbarnga market. But when the government announced the lockdown, it affected his business. I have been the one providing for the family through my petty business and now, the lockdown has swallowed it.”
New mother, Mrs. Esther Gorlormator, who delivered during the second phase of the lockdown, says life has become unbearable for her.
According to the 22-year-old new mum, feeding had been difficult before the delivery, and things are worse now.
“There is no money anywhere in my house. My husband is a marketer. Everywhere is in a lockdown. No market, no food.”
The story is the same with other pregnant women who spoke with FrontPageAfrica in Gbarnga, as they complain about hunger and lack of access to nutritious food during the lockdown.
A medical doctor at River Gee hospital, Aker Bleah, told FrontPageAfrica Tuesday via phone, “The health implications of poor feeding in pregnancy are poor weight gain in pregnancy, and deficiencies in micronutrient and macronutrient.”
“The results include anemia in pregnancy and intrauterine growth retardation; as babies tend to be born premature and with low birth weight.”
Bleah adds that preterm babies and babies who have low birth weight have the likelihood of dying in neonatal period than others. “This is because they have more infections, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, jaundice and feeding problems,” he says.
He notes that mortality and morbidity are higher among preterm and babies with low birth weight.
The doctor added, “My prayer is that women don’t die [while] trying to access maternity services because of this lockdown.”