Marie Stopes Sierra Leone (MSSL) has in collaboration with government and other healthcare partners and Health Alert Sierra Leone (HASiL) launched the Youth for Health (Y4H) project at the Sierra Bay Conference Hall Aberdeen in Freetown.
Co-funded by the European Union, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Danish government, this three-year project aims to increase demand for information and services, expand access to life-changing care within the public sector and improve the enabling policy and funding environment in Sierra Leone and five other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Focusing on Port Loko, Kambia, and Western Area Urban Districts, the Y4H Consortium will work with community leaders, school health clubs, and the media to provide adolescent-focused counseling, referrals, and discrimination-free information to young people.
Together with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Y4H will provide tailored support to 15 public sector facilities to deliver high-quality care to women and girls, including adolescents and people with disabilities.
Facilities will also be supported to improve the management of SRH supplies and HASIL will advocate for increased availability of contraceptive commodities.
Over the next three years, Y4H in Sierra Leone aims to reach 12,000 adolescent girls (aged 10-19) with SRHR information, with a focus on the poorest and most marginalized, including adolescents with disabilities in rural and hard-to-reach areas; More than 14,600 adolescent girls (aged 10-19) with SRHR/FP services in 15 public sector sites; 60 civil society organizations (CSOs); 36 decision-makers and influencers at the national and sub-national level and 30 community gatekeepers and thought-leaders; 30 public health providers and lay community health workers; and 45 youth peer educators and other community mobilizers.
“In recent years Sierra Leone has made great strides in improving women’s health,” says Daud Iqbal, MSSL’s Interim Country Director and furthered that “however, adolescents are still not able to get the sexual and reproductive healthcare services they both need and deserve.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health and with the support of the European Union, the Youth for Health Consortium hopes to change that.”
He continued by stating that “Together we hope to avert approximately 23,500 unintended pregnancies, including more than 4.300 among 15- to 19year-olds.”
“By creating the conditions where Sierra Leonean girls can make informed choices about their reproductive health, this project will also contribute to girls staying in education and greater gender equality in Sierra Leone.”
Madam Mamusu Massaquoi, Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education said 51 percent of the population are women of which forty percent are young women.
“It is important for young ladies to have access to contraceptives and other family planning services,” she said and further remarked that information that transforms the lives of young people should be cascaded thoroughly.
“I want MSSL to help young people get access to quality health services that support reproductive health and comprehensive sexuality to keep them alive,” she recommended.
The European Union Head of Cooperation, Gerald Hatler, congratulated MSSL for successfully being accepted to implement the project. The EU is a champion for human rights and gender equality, which it is taking across the world.
“We want to have girls empowered to let them take their destinies into their hands and prepare for their good future,” he said and noted the importance of working together and committing to the program for success.
Hatler pledged the support of the EU and hope that Marie Stopes reaches out across the nation.
Psychosocial Support (PSS) Channel Lead, Sahr Pessima, said with the challenges in the country in accessing family planning services and related reproductive health issues, there is a need to move faster with the project to help save more lives of women, especially adolescent women. “There is going to be huge Advocacy activities within the three years,” he said.
Dr. Tom Sesay of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation said the project aliens with the vision and mission of the ministry, which is improving the health of people.
“If we are able to improve the health of young people we can build a healthy society,” he noted and continued that one of the biggest challenges faced by the youth is to become adults with a life expectancy of 54 years.
“Maternal mortality contributes to child mortality, and so we need to ensure that our young women survive to build a healthy society,” Dr. Sesay said and added that his Ministry will continue to work with Marie Stopes to let the project succeed.
“Young people should get the required information on sexual and reproductive health issues,” he recommended and furthered that he is happy that the project is targeting the three high-risk districts and hoped that the alarming figures of sexual and reproductive health challenges will be drastically reduced at the end of the project.
Charles Vandy, a representative of the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs said Adolescent, Gender, and reproductive health issues are close to the heart if his ministry and added that services provided must be made available, accessible, and of good quality.
He said messages must be properly channeled to men and boys at well. The gender dimension of the project must be looked at.
Other speakers include Fodie Kamara, who said access to reproductive health services is a challenge in the country and it is important to have all hands-on deck to ensure the success of the project. His coalition, he said is committed to working with the project.
Dalton John, Health Alert Representative pledged his organization’s commitment to the successful implementation of the project.