Planned Parenthood Association of Liberia, PPAL wants government Prioritize sexual and reproductive health in the overall national health and education response through adequate funding from the fiscal budget.
PPAL National Executive Committee President Dr. Lyndon Mabande also called for the restructuring of the health system to make adequate provision for adolescents and young people to access SRH services without any inhibition. Build and equip at least one Youth Friendly Clinic in each District for this purpose.
Dr. Mabande urged government to provide the needed financial, material and technical resources for accelerated implementation of the National Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools and communities.
He recommended the training of facilitators to deliver Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools and communities, and provide training in youth friendly service provision to health providers in public health facilities as a
Strategy for removing barriers to access of Sexual Reproductive Health services by youth.
He wants financial support to Non-governmental organizations through subsidies to scale up their youth friendly services across the country, as well as use social media to reach out to young people within and outside the school setting especially in rural areas.
The Planned Parenthood Association of Liberia National Executive Committee President also suggested the strengthening of the current Desk in the Ministry of Health for effective leadership and coordination of the response to adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
He wants government to invest in vocational skills development for the out-of-school adolescents and young people with start off capital considering that poverty is one of the drivers of sexual activities and other social vices.
He maintained that the assertions are valid given that quality youth constitute a great asset to a nation and are drivers of sustainable development only if they are supported to realize their full potentials.
Dr. Mabande made the comments at a Press Conference in Monrovia ahead of the celebration of the World Contraception Day observed to help young people especially in handling their sexual and reproductive challenges.
“We also use this forum to draw the attention of Government to the challenges and needed mitigating support requirements in the form of funding, infrastructure, human resources for a comprehensive and effective response In Liberia”, he added.
He called for practical steps to reduce the alarming rate of teenage pregnancy, which he noted will reach pandemic stage if strategies are not implemented to prevent the act.
Quoting the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, Dr. Mabande said the age at first sexual intercourse especially among girls is between 11 and 14 years, noting that most of these sexual activities are unprotected.
He said the sexual behavior and its attendant outcome explains the current total fertility rate, high population growth and high maternal mortality rate of 1072 per 100,000 live births.
Dr. Mabande warned that if efforts are doubled and effective actions taken, Liberia might slip into sexual and reproductive health pandemic, as findings in the recently concluded Demographic Health Survey 2019-20 have suggested.
According to the preliminary findings in the Liberia Demographic and Health Survey 2019-20, though some Progress has been made over the past 5 years, the changes are not too significant.
He quotes the survey as saying, total Fertility Rate of 4.2 children per woman was an improvement of 4.7 in 2013, but this current rate still remains high, as Rural and urban comparisons show the rates of 5.5 and 3.4 respectively.
The report also shows that an average 30% of women between ages 15 and 19 have begun child bearing while 25.2% have had a live birth.
According to the survey, the regional variations are more worrisome with Maryland County recording 13.8% of young people who have had a live birth and as high as 44.5% in Gbarpolu.
In addition, 18.9% have begun child bearing in Maryland while a huge 55% have begun child bearing in River Cess.
The Survey said the age specific details of those that have begun child bearing reveals 4% for age 15, 12% for age 16, 35.5% for age 17, 44.4% for age 18 and 55.2% for age 19.
According to Dr. Mabande, the situation is alarming in rural areas compared with urban areas, and these no doubt constitute serious health, social and economic challenges.
“Unfortunately, the use of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancy especially by sexually active young people is low, and this explains their high contribution to the worrisome health and demographic profile of the country”, Dr. Mabande explained.
The Survey furthered that among adolescents of ages 15 and 19, only 9.2% of the sexually active use contraceptives, while the unmet need for family planning for the same age group is 47.2%.
On HIV, the Survey reveals that those within ages 15 and 19 have some awareness of ways of preventing HIV, showing that, 64.2% of the females and 68% of males know that condom can prevent HIV, 68% of females and 69.8% of males know that
limiting sexual partner to one prevent HIV, while only 57% of females and 58.8% of males believe that both prevent HIV.
On the overall, the report indicates that only 25.9% of females and 21.6% of males have comprehensive knowledge of HIV.
Dr. Mabande said the two clinics operated by PPAL in both Monrovia and Kakata have recorded alarming positivity rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections among adults and young people.
For instance, of the 1397 persons tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) between January and September 2020, PPAL recorded positivity rate of 36.4% and for each of the STIs, PPAL recorded positivity rates of 31.4% for Syphilis, 20.8% for Gonorrhoea and 53.7% for Chlamydia.