Zwedru — The government of Liberia and its partners including UNFPA and the Swedish Government are celebrating the rapid decline in teenage pregnancy in Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Grand Kru Counties.
Teenage pregnancy in Liberia is one of the leading factors that stop girls from completing high school. Data released by officials showed that in 2013, teenage pregnancy stood at a whopping 57.9 percent in these three counties.
However, with the intervention of a multifaceted reproductive health program, the 'Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Services to Young people' funded by the Swedish Government through UNFPA, the number has dramatically reduced to 27.2 percent in 2020. The data was contained in a report compiled by BRAC-Liberia, which is implementing the project and the County Health Team (CHT) of Grand Gedeh, and presented to members of a high power delegation comprising the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Ingrid Wetterqvist, UNFPA Country Representative, Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, and Dr. Gorbee Logan, Assistant Minister of Health for Curative Services.
The delegation is currently on a joint tour of the southeast to get first-hand information about the impact of the project, and to interact with beneficiaries and stakeholders of the counties.
Youth Friendly Center- Catalyst for Reducing Teenage Pregnancy
The program provides free and basic reproductive health services exclusively to adolescent females and males at several Youth Friendly Centers constructed at major health facilities within the counties, officials say.
The Youth Friendly Center is the key behind the success of the program, according to the Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child, Adolescent Health Supervisor of Grand Gedeh, Matilda D. Billy during the presentation of the report in a mass meeting attended by delegation and stakeholders from sectors of Grand Gedeh County led by Superintendent, Kai Farley in Zwedru.
The report showed that prior to the construction of the centers, the number of adolescents accessing family planning at health facilities was low, as most of them felt ashamed to join the adults to access these basic reproductive health services at the same place. But with the establishment of centers, the number has increased.
Some of the services rendered at the centers include family planning, antenatal care, delivery of pregnant adolescents, HIV counseling and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Others include the provision of psychosocial support services, outreach to provide adolescent health services, and health and sexuality education and information.
In addition to the youth friendly centers, the reports also noted that several health clubs have been set up at various schools where students are actively engaged and educated about their sexual and reproductive health rights, and encourage to make use of the centers to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
Thirteen youth friendly centers have been constructed and functional, along with 16 outreach sites and 15 health rooms in the three counties of the above number, Grand Gedeh County boosts of 10 centers and seven high school health clubs, according to the report.
Beneficiaries, Local Authorities Lauds Swedish Gov't, UNFPA
During Monday's meeting, Superintendent Farley led the tribute and on behalf of President George Weah, thanked the Government of the Kingdom of Sweden through Ambassador Wetterqvist, UNFPA and partners for the intervention in curbing teenage pregnancy so far.
He expressed delight in the report which indicated that among the three counties, Grand Gedeh recorded the highest reduction rate of teenage pregnancy by approximately 23 percent. He promised to work closely with the team on the ground to ensure the number decreases further.
"With your intervention, we want to appreciate you and say we are very much happy that we are getting there. We will not stop at 23 percent. We will make sure that we get to zero teenage pregnancy rate," he said.
He said teenage pregnancy remains the main challenge for girls staying in school. He also pointed out that rape is one of the main causes of teenage pregnancy in the county; and revealed that the county authority in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP), civil society organizations and health authorities is combatting the menace.