1 in 17 women bears lifetime risk of dying, says Development Minister


October 22, 2018

By Regina Pratt

The report was launched in Parliament last week

One in 17 women bears lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and child birth because they do not have real choices in maternal health care every year in Sierra Leone, avers Minister of Planning and Economic  Development Mrs. Nabella Tunis.

The minister was speaking Friday, October 19, during the launch of the State of the World Population Report 2018 titled ‘The Power of Choice: Reproductive Rights and the Demographic Transition ’ at Parliament Building, Tower Hill.

The report was launched by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development.

Addressing the audience, Mrs. Tunis noted that it was evident that inadequate provision of family planning services eventually leads to complications from pregnancy and childbirth as women carry risky pregnancies that are too early, too late, too close or too many, thereby leading  to preventable maternal deaths.

“The poorest of our women and young girls are most likely to be pregnant due to the fact that they cannot access family planning services,” she said.

She called on countries to confront their demographic challenges, not through fewer choices, but rather by enhancing rights and choices.

She stated that the government was aware that investments in reproductive health ensure reproductive rights for all, noting that if people were unable to access sexual reproductive health and family planning services it would threaten the development of the country.

“Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, reproductive health and rights have substantially improved around the world. People have more information about their reproductive rights and choices, and a greater capacity to claim their rights,” she said.

Madam Tunis further stated that not enough sensitisation has been undertaken in drawing attention to the negative effects of the lack of sexual reproductive health services, including safe family planning practices in communities.

On her part, UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Kim Eva Dickson told the audience that the report was about global fertility trends, stating that, “In Sierra Leone, where the total fertility rate is 5.7 children per woman, we need to continue to extend the reach of reproductive healthcare services and improve quality and make sure everyone knows their reproductive rights and how to exercise them.”

She continued that: “When a woman has the power and means to prevent or delay a pregnancy, for example, she has more control over her health and can enter or stay in the paid labour force and realise her full economic potential.”

The UNFPA country representative said the report reveals that no country could claim that all of its citizens enjoy reproductive rights at all times, as most couples cannot acquire the number of children they want because they either lack economic and social support to achieve their preferred family size, or the means to control their fertility.

She added that the unmet need for modern contraception prevents hundreds of millions of women from choosing smaller families.

In addition, Development Secretary at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Peter Sam-Kpakra said, “Today’s launch of the State of World Population report provides a platform for increased awareness of our legislators and key stakeholders on reproductive choice issues and the policy and programme recommendations.”

He said the launch was aimed to provide an opportunity for lawmakers to familiarise themselves with the key recommendations from the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD) review meeting, which was recently held in Accra, Ghana.

According to the report, when people lack choice, it can have a long-term impact on fertility rates, often making them higher or lower than what most people desire.

The report notes that family size is closely linked with reproductive rights, which in turn are tied to many other rights, including the right to adequate health, education, and jobs.

“Where these rights are stifled, people often fail to achieve their full potential, impeding economic and social progress,” he concluded.