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Sierra Leone News: UN Population Fund kicks off Family Planning Week

The UN-run Family Planning Week began yesterday, kicking off seven days of community outreach in Sierra Leone and policy collaboration with local Ministries.
Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Madina Rahman, and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative, Dr. Kim Dickson, announced the initiative in a joint press conference. Both agreed that Sierra Leone has improved access to contraceptives and sexual education, but there are many areas where the government needs to improve.
Both Rahman and Dickson commented on Sierra Leone having one of the highest rates of both teenage pregnancies and maternal mortality in the world, a notorious distinction they aim to fix with increased investment in family planning.
Contraceptives like birth control pills, condoms, and implants help men and women avoid unwanted pregnancies and give them control over when they want to start a family. Only 16% of women in Sierra Leone are currently using some form of contraceptive. The rate in women ages 15 to 19 years old is only 7.8%, which Rahman and Dickson said contributes to the high rate of teenage pregnancies.
According to the Sierra Leone Demographic Health Survey (SLDMS), maternal mortality rates are 1,165 per 100,000 live births. Almost half of these deaths are teenagers.
Under the UN Family Planning Initiative, Sierra Leone is working to increase contraceptive use to 30% by 2020. This would entail almost doubling the use of family planning methods over the next three years. Rahman is confident they would reach their goals through the combined efforts of the Ministry and the UNFPA with funding from the UN and World Bank.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has been trying to expand access to contraceptives and sexual education by establishing 1,300 clinics throughout the country. Rahman said they must address supply chain issues going forward to make sure these clinics provide women across the country with a reliable source of contraceptives.
They believe that family planning is regarded as a powerful tool to combating poverty, however universal access to family planning is not yet a reality particularly among the world’s poorest countries. Contraceptives allow parents to plan on having the number of children they can adequately care for.
EK/4/7/1
By Emmanuella Kallon & Timothy Kenney
Wednesday 05,2017.

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