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World Population Day: Family Planning Saves Women's Lives

The government of Sierra Leone and its partners are making an effort in empowering the population of the country with education on Family Planning.  As part of this project, the Family Planning week launch event was held at the Miatta Conference Hall on Tuesday 4th July, 2017, in the framework of this year’s World Population Day Celebration on the theme: Family Planning -"Empowering People, Developing Nations."

The event was graced by the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation Madam Madinatu Raman, and representatives from DFID, Irish Aid, Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, UNFPA, Planned Parenthood Association, media and guests from various sectors including adolescent boys and girls.

During a press conference that preceded the official launch of the Family Planning Week, the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation Madam Madinatu Rahman revealed to the press that her Ministry and a representative from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development would attend the Family Planning Summit in London where Sierra Leone will be making three strong commitments:

  • The government of Sierra Leone will diversify family planning resources through sustainable financing by year 2020:
  • The government of Sierra Leone is committed to improve access to family planning commodities through supply chain reforms and improved data visibility by year 2020
  • The Government commits to reduce the unmet need for family planning to adolescent aged 10-19 years from about 30% in 2013 to 20% in 2021 and to reduce adolescent birth rates from 125.1/1000 in 2013 to 74/1000 in the same year.

In a press release dated 4th July, 2017 the 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.”

This year, the London Family Planning Summit will coincide with the World Population Day, and will be working in strong partnership with the Family Planning 2020 initiative whose aim 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, but universal access to family planning is not yet a reality particularly among the world’s poorest countries.

The use of modern contraceptive has nearly doubled worldwide from 36 per cent in 1970 to 64 per cent in 2016. In Sierra Leone, the contraceptive prevalence rate is relatively low at 16 per cent, but this a marked improvement since 2008 when the rate was only 8 per cent.

Whereas the unmet need for contraceptives for women of reproductive age is 27 per cent. Women may have an unmet need for family planning for a variety of reasons: lack of knowledge about the risk of becoming pregnant; fear of side effects of contraceptives; perceptions that their husbands, other family members, or their religion oppose family planning; or lack of access to family planning services. Many of these barriers could be overcome through better information and counseling for both women and men.

During her keynote at the event, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Madina Rahman said, “Acknowledging the importance of family planning to the health and well-being of our people, and the overall socio-economic development of the country, this Government is prioritising the provision of quality family planning services in the country. In this regard, we presently have over 1300 functioning family planning clinics in all districts of the country providing quality family planning services on a voluntary basis.”

According to the 2013 Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey, 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.

United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Sunil Saigal, remarked at the event, “For a country such as Sierra Leone, which has emerged from the twin shocks of the Ebola outbreak and the collapse of commodity prices, and where recovery efforts have focused on building resilience in the country’s institutions and – equally important – in its communities, family planning can play a significant positive role in building such resilience.” He added, “With better access to health and family planning services, women as primary care givers will be less susceptible to future shocks. Healthy women mean healthy communities.” 

It is considered, that women with choices and greater reproductive health are empowered to seek and keep better jobs and contribute more to their families, nations and global prosperity. This could trigger a cycle of prosperity that carries well into future generations. This produces demographic dividends and enhances national prosperity.

Achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, will depend significantly on how well the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people are fulfilled. Catering to unmet need for family planning is among the most cost-effective investments overall.

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