July 4, 2016 By Regina Pratt
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Kim Dickson, has said that there had been a steady increase in Sierra Leone’s population since 1963, when the first census was conducted in the country, adding that the population growth rate was 2.5 percent.
She made the statement on Wednesday, 29 June, 2016 during the validation of the draft National Population Policy at the conference hall of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, on George Street in Freetown, organised by the ministry in collaboration with UNFPA.
She disclosed that population and development were central to the work of her organisation and recalled that since 2008 several attempts have been made to validate the draft National Population Policy.
Dr. Dickson expressed optimism that stakeholders would move the process forward to finally endorse the policy.
The UNFPA Country Representative stated that population factors could be impediments to the provision of social services, climate change and environmental degradation, as population policy takes cognisance of regional, continental and global trends as well as emerging issues like the recent Ebola outbreak.
She urged investment in family planning, quality education, among others, and pledged UNFPA’s continued support to government towards implementing the policy for a brighter future of the country.
Dr. Dickson further said that while UNFPA recognises that population growth was inevitable, they equally held the view that the growth and size of the population could be managed to ensure high quality of life for the majority of the people.
The Development Secretary, Mr. John Sumailah, expressed hope that stakeholders would use their wisdom to reach a consensus to validate the policy and acclaimed UNFPA for its financial and logistical support.
Mr. Sumailah said most of those who died during the Ebola outbreak were women and children, adding that the draft policy document includes an action plan for post-Ebola activities and invited all stakeholders to actively participate in the process as a national duty.
The consultant, Professor Herbert Bob-Kandeh, in a power point presentation said the policy was expected to provide a comprehensive development framework of macro and socio-economic policies that would promote the national development agenda as well as mobilise human and financial resources.
“The goals and objectives for policy directions define a strategy of making development planning and policy more comprehensive and effective by the incorporation of the demographic dimension,” he said, noting that the strategy provides for the integration of population variables into all aspects of development programming which should be constantly monitored and evaluated through an elaborate, timely, sufficient, reliable means, in a relevant data collection system.
Dr. Kandeh said the policy is divided into quantifiable indicators in conformity with the Sierra Leone Poverty Reduction Strategy 2008-2012 and the Millennium Development Goals focusing on the stipulation of the Sierra Leone Vision 2015 document.
“The first National Population Policy was adopted in 2008 and reviewed in 2009 but unfortunately, the Population Policy Implementation Action Plan was not developed at the time, the reason why the policy was not tabled in Parliament for ratification,” he disclosed.
Director of Planning and Development in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Sheka Bangura, in his capacity as chair of the validation process, explained the importance of validating the document and the need to put premium on population issues. He said the Food and Agriculture Organisation had projected an increase in population in developing countries from 4.9 billion to over 6 billion.