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The Women Breaking Barriers to Build Sierra Leone’s New Maternity Unit

In Kono District, in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, where diamond-rich earth was once exploited to fund a decade-long civil war, a new legacy is being built in its capital, Koidu. Behind a steel fence, the rooms of a new maternity centre, the Maternal Center of Excellence, are emerging – and about 60% of those wearing hard hats on site are women. Most are working in construction for the first time and are conscious they are helping to build the region’s future. The 166-bed facility, which is due to partly open by the end of next year, is funded through a public-private partnership by the international nonprofit Partners in Health and the Sierra Leone government. The goals for the new centre include a five-fold increase in family-planning visits, as well as a reduction in the rate of facility-based maternal deaths to less than 1%, and stillbirths to less than 2%.“It’s a dream come true. Aside from being spacious, it will meet the needs of what people actually want: quality,” says sister Therisa Mye-Kamara. “This will put Kono district on the healthcare map. We will be the super best.”