Despite the huge numbers of teenage girls becoming pregnant across Liberia, the health ministry says there has been a reduction in the rate of teen pregnancy from 68% in 2007, to 38 in 2011, according to the Director of Family Heath Division at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Saye Dahn Baawo.
Pregnant girls as young as thirteen are seen all over the country. Some are big for their ages, while others are frail and thin and visibly unable to deliver these babies.
I spoke to the head of the midwife association of Liberia, Mrs. Emilia Ayormanie, and some time ago and asked her what age group showed up in labor rooms across the country. Her voice dropped as she said, “Seventy-five percent teenagers,” confirming my worst fear.
With tears in her eyes Mrs. Ayormanie said, “We are losing this generation of teenagers slowly and no one seems to notice this.”
More has to be done to ensure young Liberian girls have equal access to programs that teach reproductive health. It’s all about preparing their minds and arming them with the requisite knowledge that will enable them to make the right choices. Counseling, education materials and medical staff are available at the Planned Parenthood Association of Liberia. It is much more than a dispensary of birth control pills.
Teen parents most often are not financially prepared to have children, which puts a serious strain on parents, other siblings and here in Liberia, other relatives. Social, because when you cannot take care of your responsibilities, they become the responsibilities of society.
Many teen couples do not end up being lifetime partners, and stepchildren can cause tension in marriages. Teenagers who get pregnant are often products of teenage mothers themselves. If the reason the mother got pregnant in the first place is financial, of course, the coming of the newborn baby will not improve the situation and 99 out of hundred times it will make it worse. The hardships of teen parenthood can be avoided because there is a safe and effective family planning method for every woman.
Worldwide over 1 billion young women ages 10-19 (a period of life that starts at puberty and ends at the entrance of adulthood), face a number of health challenges. We should consider including reproductive health education in our national curriculum from at least the junior high school level.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in a meeting with women at the Ministry of Gender and development, spoke strongly against teenage pregnancy which according to her causes girls to drop out of school.”This is one area we need to work seriously so as to give these girls the opportunity to reach their goals in life” the Liberian leader said.
In 2007, 68 percent of Liberia’s teenage girls were pregnant, according to the DHS.
These children are supposed to be in school. People are asking what the educational system is doing to ensure these young women remain in school. Another question to ask is what is stopping the educational system from including reproductive health education in the national curriculum.
Unintended pregnancies lead to early graves. Research has shown that one-fourth of all abortions in Liberia are performed by persons lacking the necessary skills or in a very poor environment that does not meet medical standards or both. Unsafe abortions are primarily undertaken by teens between the ages of 15 and 19, and often lead to death. Providing reproduction health education and counseling could save lives.
In Liberia, 30 to40 percent of teenagers who show up in these quack clinics fall between the ages of 14 and 18. By the time they reach these clinics, they are half dead, most often because they have already tampered with the pregnancy without their parents knowing.
Traveling throughout the country, we have heard stories about how girls use a certain kind of stick made in a hook form to remove the fetus. Some use a certain chalk (made of traditional medicine) that they insert in the vagina. When the pain becomes unbearable, the parents find out about the pregnancy and administer a pain reliever. This is the fait accompli because when teen girls insert the chalk, they are not supposed to take anything else.
This method, known as the RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) is widespread. One girl told me it’s a chance she feels she has to take. Fania Gbakoya,(not her real name),died from an illegal abortion. Her friends had mixed some kind of concoction for her to drink. It didn’t work. She later took some grinded glass bottles (which causes toxic shock and has killed so many).Beatrice became so ill that it attracted the attention of her parents who then took her to the hospital.
“At the hospital,” laments Beatrice’s mother Caroline in tears, “my daughter confessed as she was dying that she had taken so many things to terminate her pregnancy.”Caroline said she was so shocked she could have dropped dead, because she didn’t even know that her 16-year-old had begun menstruating.
At this point, according to Caroline, the doctors decided to do a quick dilation and curettage to take out what was now left inside Beatrice because she was beginning to smell, without knowing that all she had taken had cooked her uterus.
According to WHO statistics, the adoption of family planning represents one of the most dramatic changes of the twentieth century because it gave couples the power to choose the number of children they could afford. This boosts the survival rate of newborns and the general health of the parents and it is often cost effective, particularly in the poorest countries.
On average, family planning helps government achieve national and international development goals as they strive to combat poverty as well as other health and development targets embedded in the Millennium Development Goals.
The bottom line is that family Planning saves women’s lives.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 October 2011 12:34)