Concord Times (Freetown)

16 July 2012

Sierra Leone: 800 Women Die Daily, Says UNFPA Executive Director

The United Nations Population Fund UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, has said that some 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every day worldwide from complications that are often preventable.

Speaking at a conference held at the Santanno House, Howe Street with the theme: "Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services organized by UNFPA in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone last Wednesday as part of activities mark this year's World Population Day, Dr. Osotimehin said that about 20 other women suffer from debilitating childbirth injuries such as obstetric fistula which is why the international Community is determined to make Universal Access to Reproductive Health a priority.

He noted that the time of giving birth is typically the most joyful moment in a woman's life but the process still takes its toll on the lives of many women worldwide. UNFPA's sub-regional director, Idrissa Ouedraogo, said working for the survival and well-being of women and girls is a human right imperative and to take advantage of women's full potential in the development of their nation, they must be able to plan their lives and families.

"Today, as we commemorate World Population Day, it is time to re-energize our commitment to universal access to reproductive health services, especially voluntary family planning," he said adding that there is a need to meet the needs of the 222 million women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy but have no access to modern contraceptive.

Ouedraogo disclosed that the modern contraceptive would help prevent 21 million unplanned births, 79 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths. Dr. Peter Sikana of UNFPA and the Family Planning team said that the world has been faced with diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria due to unplanned families.

He further said that they were able to convince religious and traditional leaders on the use of contraceptives and promised to ensure the availability of contraceptives. Government representative, Program Component Manager at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mohamed Lebbie, commended development partners for their support to the health sector for the wellbeing of the Sierra Leonean population.

He pointed out that the government has already prepared the National Population Policy to accelerate action for the improvement of the population and urged the media to disseminate issues relating to family planning and population growth so that people would be well informed on the need to accept and use family planning commodities that are free of cost.

UNFPA country representative, Ratizia Ndlovu, disclosed that UNFPA and its partners are collaborating effectively with the government and advocacy groups nationwide to raise the awareness among the rural population on the need to use family planning methods.

She noted that the public should help accelerate government's support in educating women and men on the underlined issue that the more women are educated, the more they are inclined to use family planning contraceptives as well as desire to give birth to the number of children they can care for to produce a quality and productive population.

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