The government, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners, last week celebrated World Population Day 2018 in Kambia on the theme "Family Planning is a human right".
During the event in the northern part of the country, stakeholders called on women and girls to use contraceptive as the district has one of the lowest prevalence rate of family planning.
The occasion marked the start of a week-long event, scheduled for four districts with the lowest contraceptives prevalence rates in the country - Kambia, Koinadugu, Kono and Moyamba districts.
Speaking at the community event, UNFPA Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Kim Dickson, said the human rights aspect of family planning has not been fully realised, especially in developing countries.
She expressed delight over the huge turnout of stakeholders in the community, assuring that the UNFPA team would further support government to engage the people of Kono, Koinadugu and Moyamba.
"Contraceptive use in Sierra Leone increased from seven percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2013. Sierra Leone still has one of the lowest contraceptive uses which need to be addressed," she said.
According to her, Kambia has 5% rate of contraceptive use, Koinadugu 6%, Moyamba 9%, Kono 12% and Port Loko 13% and stressed the need to reach out to the people so that high teenage pregnancy rate could be reduced.
She assured of UNFPA's commitment to supporting women to access family planning and called on government to fulfil its one percent budgetary commitment support to family planning, which would help girls complete more years of schooling as well as aid economic empowerment.
"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," she said.
Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sierra Leone, Sunil Saigal stated that women of all ages should have access to a range of family planning care, including access to high quality contraceptive services.
She urged that active prevention of stock supplies, the provision of adequate counseling and follow-up as well as the facilitation of women's switching of contraceptive methods if desired to be encouraged.
He also called for investment in the development of new, highly effective and easy to use methods to be prioritised.
In his keynote address, Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie expressed dismay over the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the country, which according to him leads to the condition of obstetric fistula, maternal mortality and school dropouts.
He told the gathering that government was planning to introduce free healthcare service for students of adolescent age by 2019/2020 academic year, assuring that girls would be accessing family planning commodities and services.
On his part, Chief Medical Officer 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, noting that most maternal and child deaths are caused by teenage pregnancy.
Paramount Chief of Magbema Chiefdom in Kambia District, Bai Farama Bubu Ngbak IV, stated that teenage pregnancy and child marriage are on the increase in the community and affects the health and wellbeing of girls.
Over a hundred women and girls accessed family planning services through the mobile outreach site managed by Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, one of the implementing partners of UNFPA, while some women and girls were screened for cervical cancer.