The Minister of Health and Sanitation has called on parliamentarians to join the fight against the reduction of maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy, which cause the death of thousands of women and children each year, especially during pregnancy and child birth.
Ms. Miatta Kargbo made the appeal last weekend at a two-day advocacy retreat on 'Reproductive Health, Maternal Mortality, Newborn and Child Health' attended by over 30 parliamentarians at the Place Guest House, Tokeh village, outside Freetown.
The advocacy retreat was organized by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation with support from the United Nations Population Fund and Mamaye.
According Ms. Kargbo, maternal mortality, child morbidity and teenage pregnancy remain key issues in Sierra Leone, as one out of twenty-one women die from complicated pregnancy issues mainly due to hemorrhage and eclampsia. She also noted that one out of every three teenage girls is pregnant and one out of four women would like to access family planning.
Ms. Kargbo said government and health partners are still committed to drastically reducing high rate of maternal mortality, child morbidity and teenage pregnancy by 2015 as part of their strategic commitments to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"Tremendous progress has been made over the past few years in providing free services to the women and children with support from partners," she disclosed, noting that an accelerated, collective and multi-sector effort is needed if Sierra Leone is to achieve the MDGs.
The United Nations Population Fund Country Representative (UNFPA), Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi implored the MPs to play lead advocacy roles in their various constituencies by taking the message to their constituents, as such would create immense impact in diverse ways.
Dr. Bannet disclosed that the UNFPA has supported parliamentarians in several capacity building workshops in population and development issues, which had enabled MPs to participate in various international conferences on population development.
He encouraged the MPs to play a positive role in ensuring women in their constituencies do not die whilst giving birth, and to protect young girls from teenage pregnancy, early marriage and the significance of family planning.
Director of Reproductive and Child Health at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Jarrie Kabba Kabbeh, briefed the MPs on progress being made in making health facilities safer for maternal and child health in Sierra Leone, in terms of saving the lives of women and children across the country, as a result of the construction of new health care centers, community health posts/units, and donation of solar lights to provide electricity by the UNFPA.
Dr. Kabbeh said reproductive health security exists when every person is able to choose, obtain and use quality contraceptive, and that attaining the Millennium Development Goals on child mortality, maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS would depend on the availability of proper reproductive health services and supplies.
Programme Manager, Reproductive Health and Family Planning, Dr. Lynda Foray, was lead discussant on a session on maternal death surveillance and response in Sierra Leone. She disclosed that the establishment of maternal death surveillance and response systems is an approach to ensure better information for better results.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Population and Development, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu and the Majority Leader, Hon. Sheku Badara Dumbuya commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, UNFPA and Mamaye for their initiative to organize the retreat, as they pledged their continuous support to advocating on maternal health issues.