January 15, 2018 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Sierra Leone is still struggling with it healthcare facility despite government commitment in providing quality and affordable healthcare services for lactating mothers and their children. Many non-governmental organisations have been working hard to address teenage pregnancy, but the practice is still on the increase especially in rural and some urban communities.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) believes that investing in family planning is significant to the growth and development of Sierra Leone and the organisation last year ran satellite events throughout the country, engaging women in the run-up to celebrations of World Population Day on 11 July every year.
Recent UNFPA newsletter disclosed that a special event was organised by the humanitarian organisation and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, and Ministry of Health and Sanitation, where they highlighted that investing in family planning is investing in the health and rights of women and couples worldwide and Sierra Leone in particular.
Speaking on the theme for World Population Day, UNFPA Country Representative, Dr. Kim E. Dickson stated, “This year’s theme: “Family Planning: Empowering people, Developing nations” is a key area of our work at UNFPA. This is because family planning saves women’s lives. It’s good for women, men and children.” She added, “With family planning, women can have children by choice and not by chance. They can have the number of children they can adequately care for.”
Last year, World Population Day coincided with the London Family Planning Summit, which was the second meeting of donors and stakeholders that make up the Family Planning 2020 initiative. The aim of the FP2020 initiative is to expand access to voluntary family planning to an additional 120 million women and girls in 69 of the world’s poorest countries by 2020. Family planning is regarded as a powerful tool to combatting poverty; however universal access to family planning is not yet a reality particularly among the world’s poorest countries.
According to the 2013 Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey, the maternal mortality ratio in Sierra Leone is estimated at 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births, whilst the infant mortality rate is 92/1,000 live births. The total fertility rate is estimated at 4.9 births per woman and there is a high prevalence of teenage pregnancies estimated at 28 per cent. Access to sexual reproductive health services for adolescents is significantly low. More than 86 per cent of girls aged 15-19 have never used contraceptives, and 30 per cent of adolescent girls in Sierra Leone are already pregnant before their 19th birthday. Nearly 31 per cent of this age group in Sierra Leone has an unmet need for family planning.
Recent research indicates that family planning can prevent many more deaths. Women who choose family planning are healthier and face lower risk of maternal death. Children born to women who space their pregnancies tend to be healthier and face reduced risk of death in their first five years.