The occasion marked the start of a week-long ‘family planning’ events scheduled for the four districts with the lowest contraceptives prevalence rates, with Kambia with the lowest, followed by Koinadugu, Kono and the Moyamba district.
According to UNFPA, recognising family planning as a human right goes as far back as May 1968, 50 years ago in the International Conference on Human Rights in Teheran where family planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a human right. The Tehran Proclamation states, "Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children."
Family planning is the information, means and methods that allow individuals to decide if and when to have children. This includes a wide range of contraceptives – including pills, implants, intrauterine devices, surgical procedures that limit fertility, and barrier methods such as condoms – as well as non-invasive methods such as the calendar method and abstinence. Family planning also includes information about how to become pregnant when it is desirable, as well as treatment of infertility.
UNFPA supports many aspects of voluntary family planning, including procuring contraceptives, training health professionals to accurately and sensitively counsel individuals about their family planning options, and promoting comprehensive sexuality education in schools.
At the community event, UNFPA Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Kim Dickson said the human rights aspect of family planning has not been fully realized, especially in developing countries. She expressed delight over the huge turnout of stakeholders in the community to the event, revealing that UNFPA teams will further support government to engage the people of Kono, Koinadugu and Moyamba with low contraceptive use on similar sensitization.
She furthered that contraceptive use in Sierra Leone increased from 7 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2013, but noted Sierra Leone still has one of the lowest contraceptive use which needs to be addressed.
The UNFPA Representative continued that Kambia has five percent rate of contraceptive use, Koinadugu six percent, Moyamba nine percent, Kono 12% and Port Loko 13% and reiterated the need to reach out to the people to reduce the high teenage pregnancy rate.
Dr. Kim Dickson also assured that UNFPA is fully committed to supporting women to access family planning and called on government to fulfil its one percent commitment budgetary support to family planning that would help girls complete more years of schooling as well as aid economic empowerment.
The UNDP Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Mr. Sunil Saigal pointed out that women of all ages should have access to a range of family planning care, including access to high quality contraceptive services and observed that the active prevention of stock outs of supplies, the provision of adequate counselling and follow up as well as the facilitation of women’s switching of contraceptive methods if desired should be encouraged.
Mr. Sunil Saigal also underscored that investing in the development of new; highly effective and easy to use methods should be prioritized.
The week-long events in the four districts also include outreach services by staff of Marie Stopes by making available a range of contraceptive services - injectables, implants, and male and female condoms.
In his keynote address on the World Population Day 2018 celebration, the Minster of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie firstly expressed dismay with the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the country, leading to the condition of obstetric fistula, maternal mortality and school dropouts.
Dr. Wurie told the gathering that government is planning to introduce the free health care service for students of adolescents’ age by the 2019/2020 academic year, assuring that girls would be accessing family planning commodities and services. He urged the girls to take full advantage of the opportunity in accessing family planning services.
Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. If all women in developing countries with an unmet need for contraceptives were able to use modern methods, an additional 35 million abortions and 76,000 maternal deaths would be prevented every year. Additionally, male and female condoms, when used correctly and consistently, provide dual protection against both unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
The Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Brima Kargbo revealed that Kambia District has the highest birth rate in the country as a result of the non-use of family planning commodities; adding that most maternal and child deaths are also as a result of teenage pregnancy.
Paramount Chief of Magbema Chiefdom in Kambia, Bai Farama Bubu Ngbak the fourth underscored that teenage pregnancy and child marriage are on the increase in the community, affecting the health and wellbeing of girls - issues he noted must be taken seriously.
On the day, over a hundred women and girls accessed the family planning services through the mobile outreach site managed by Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, one of the implementing partners of UNFPA. Some of the women and girls were screened for cervical cancer which one health worker revealed is common in the country.
One of the women spoke to after the screening and family planning services. Safinatu Kamara disclosed that she took the injection five months ago but is now taking the coil after experiencing some side effects.
Another lady Christiana Gbenga said she took the injection three months ago with no side effects adding that she eats well and is healthy.
Highlights of the programme were performances by Vicky The Poet on child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and dance performance by the Kambia Community Dance Troop.