The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), along with stakeholders in Monrovia, has vowed to declare war on teenage pregnancy through massive campaigns and educational activities in the country.
About 16 million girls aged 15-19 give birth annually across the world with Liberia having a chunk of the number, but stakeholders here said they ready to go out to discourage the practice which also have devastating effects on both those that are involved and the society in general.
“It is not going to be easy; this goal will not be achieved in a week, month or year’s time, but it will work when we all are committed,” UNFPA’s Assistant Resident Representative and Officer-In-Charge Philderald E. Pratt told a joint press conference Thursday, July 11, at a press conference highlighting World population Day.
Pratt said up to now, there is no cohesive efforts/program in place to combat the challenge of teenage pregnancy, adding that “we are just about to start the process.”
A two-day stakeholder dialogue on teenage pregnancy was held ahead of the day, and participants of the dialogue also issued a resolution calling of a collective aggressive stance against adolescent pregnancy.
The dialogue was attended by, among others, Representatives from the government, civil society organizations, the adolescent Girls Forum as well as religious and traditional leaders, all of whom, through a resolution, vowed to join the UNFPA to discourage teenage pregnancy in the country.
UNFPA Liberia, about a year ago, disclosed that teenage pregnancy in Liberia stands at 38 percent, unmet needs for family planning stand at 36 percent, while conceptive prevalence was as low as only 11 percent.
The UNFPA said adolescents engage in unprotected sex which results into pregnancy while most adolescent pregnancies end in induced unsafe abortion while the `Liberia demographic Health Survey(LDHS) shows that 21 percent of women that are dying in pregnancy are between the ages of 15 and 19.
Speaking facts and figures yesterday, Pratt noted that nine out of 10 of the aged 15-19 girls who give birth are already married something he said was not appropriate. In Liberia, he stated that 32 out of 100 girls are pregnant or have given birth by age 18. “The situation is alarming in the rural areas as compared to urban areas: 42 out of 100 and 24 out of 100 respectively.
He noted that teenage pregnancy was very alarming in the country, while complications from pregnancy and child birth continue to be the leading cause of death among adolescent girls (15-19) in low and middle income countries including Liberia.
The UNFPA boss attributed some of the causes of teenage pregnancy to force and child marriage by parents, poverty, lack of education, inequality among others.
Reading the resolution derived at the close of the two-day dialogue preceding World Population Seanneh H. Kullei of Sisters With Power (Bong County) called on girls of Liberia to say no to teenage pregnancy.
The stakeholders vowed to stand up against Adolescent pregnancy in Liberia, advocate for the harmonization of the Inheritance Law and Rape Law, work with chief and other leaders to establish laws that guide traditional practices for the best interest of the girl child, and ensure that schools are in gender-safe environments.
The stakeholders also pledged to work with relevant bodies to open youth-friendly centers where they can have access to basic education on their sexuality, ensuring the teaching and inclusion of sex education in the national curriculum, and use their places of worship to promote sex education, among several others.
The head of the Union of Muslim Association Sheikh Idrissa Sawray said once the stakeholders hold together, the battle against teenage pregnancy would be won.
“We the traditional and religious leaders have decided the join the UNFPA to explain the implication of getting a child or pregnant when you are not ready,” he continued. “We have committed ourselves to do it…and within the next three years we will see a change when we remain committed….We did it to stop the war and we can do it to save humanity.”
Other representatives and organizations pledged their total commitment in working to address the high rate of teenage pregnancy which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself has alarmed over in the past, describing it as “babies boring babies.’
As the world population edged to 7 billion people in 2011 (up from 2.5 billion in 1950), it has had profound implications for development. A world of 7 billion is both a challenge and an opportunity with implications on sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment, according to the UN.
In 1989, in its decision 89/46, the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended that, in order to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues in the context of overall development plans and programmes and the need to find solutions for these issues, 11 July should be observed by the international community as World Population Day.
The UN said about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year. Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. The vast majority – 90 per cent — of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. But for far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with informed choice. Often it is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations (including child marriage), inadequate education or sexual coercion.
“On 2013 World Population Day, we raise awareness of the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” a statement pasted on the UN official website noted. Writes d Kaihenneh Sengbeh, email@example.com, +231886586531