By Foday Moriba Conteh
In a bid to create an invaluable opportunity for young people from across the country to directly engage and collaborate with our health care workers to actively address some of the most important issues Youth and Adolescent are faced with today on Family planning in the country, Health Alert Sierra Leone in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone with support from Momentum Country and Global Leadership (MCGL) USAID has on Saturday 8th October, 2022 concluded a two day National Youth and Adolescent Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Conference on the theme: “Strengthening Youth & Adolescent Voice as a Moment for Investment, Action & Accountability on Family planning.” The Two Day Conference was held at the Bintumani Hotel on Aberdeen in Freetown.
The Conference brought together stakeholders, Non-Governmental Organizations, social change-makers, health workers, community advocates, Youths and Adolescents from the 16 Districts in the country.
Giving an overview of the conference, the Executive Director of Health Alert Sierra Leone, Victor Lansana Koroma, said that Sierra Leone is proud to join other countries in the world to look at issues relating to Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health in the country.
He said that as an organization they met in 2019 to also discuss mortality rate issue in the country, adding that girls are around 34 percent of which 28 percent of these girls in the country are adolescent between the ages of 15 to 19 years.
He said that as an organization they are aware that Government of Sierra Leone has made progress in terms of Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health issues in the country but said more need to be done, pointing out that as part of their efforts to sexual reproductive health in the country the Government of Sierra Leone has introduced the Comprehensive Sexual Education in the school curriculum and the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School has trained over 785 health workers to look at issues relating to adolescent friendly services, furthering that the Government has also created adolescent youth friendly centers in 2019 and the review of the Sexual Offences Acts of 2019 as amended.
Victor Lansana Koroma revealed that regardless of these efforts made so far, the challenges relating to Family Planning and Adolescents are huge. He stated that the Government of Sierra Leone allocated 1 percent of the country’s budget to Family Planning of which he called on the Government of Sierra Leone to make a clear budget line in relation to family planning.
The Executive Director said that as an organization they deemed it fit to hold the two days National Youth and Adolescent Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Conference in order to bring stakeholders, Non-Governmental Organizations, Youths and Adolescents from the 16 Districts in the country in a conversation on issues relating to Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health.
He concluded by calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure the implementation of its commitment to family planning and sexual reproductive health in the country.
The Country Director for Jhpiego& Consortium Lead for the USAID Momentum Country and Global Leadership Project, Baindu Kosia, said that the conference is part of their strides of them supporting family planning in the country.
She added that the Momentum Country and Global Leadership Project supports Governments, local partners, and initiatives at national and international levels to advance technical leadership and achieve goals around maternal, newborn, and child health, voluntary family planning, and reproductive health services of which she noted that they are very happy to support the two day National Youth and Adolescent Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Conference.
She pointed out that there a lot of statistics showing that adolescent girls are getting pregnant and ended up losing their lives in the country, stating that as part of Momentum and Global Leadership Project work they believed that family planning can address all those issues.
Baindu Kosia pointed out that the National Youth and Adolescent Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health conference is a follow up to a conference held by Health Alert Sierra Leone two years ago and the conference will create the opportunity for adolescent girls from the 16 districts to discuss the successes and challenges of family planning and for them also to bring out innovative ideas to address issues of Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health in the country.
On his part, the Programme Manager for Reproductive Health and Planning at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Francis Moses, commended Health Alert Sierra Leone and partners for the laudable venture of bringing together adolescent girls around such a conversation which he described as not only important but very timely towards addressing issues related to family planning and sexual reproductive health in the country.
He stated it started in 2018 when the idea of bringing youth and adolescent girls together to discuss family planning issues and that after listening to all the discussions by the adolescent he was very much impressed with their contributions.
Dr. Francis Moses said as a Government they are very happy that young people have taken interest in the issue of discussion of which, on behalf of the Government, he assured all that the Government has listened to the recommendations made by participants and is very much committed towards implementing those concerns going forward.
Commenting on behalf of participants, Fatmata Sankoh from Bo District, commended Health Alert Sierra Leone and partners for organizing the two day National Youth and Adolescent Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Conference which she said has equipped her on Family Planning and Sexual Reproductive Health issues.
She called on the Government of Sierra Leone and its partners to ensure that the implementation of the recommendations made by young people during the conference takes place.
Fatmata Sankoh also assured all that as adolescents they will take the knowledge they have gained on Family Planning and Sexual Reproductive Health during the conference to their communities.
Closing the conference were group presentations on family planning by participants from the 16 districts in the country followed by a Hackathon which was won by participants of the Western Urban.