The Deputy Ambassador of Sweden to Liberia and Sierra Leone Johan Romare, on Friday, in a Twitter post, said Teenage pregnancies have reduced by 50% since 2016 in Southeast.
According to him, family planning is key for sexual reproductive health rights and the empowerment of girls and boys.
“Well done Liberia! Teenage pregnancies reduced by 50% since 2016 in Southeast. Family planning key for SRHR & empowerment of girls & boys – key for sustainable development! Good cooperation Ministry Health & Education, County Health Teams, UNFPA & partners for lasting results,” Romare’s.
Romare is the deputy head of mission, and head of development cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden in Liberia. The post attracted 1k views.
We contacted the Swedish deputy ambassador to tell us the source of the claim, but there has been no response. If there’s we will update this article.
Teenage pregnancies in Liberia continue to be a severe health and economic problem for Liberia. This problem has drastically lowered girls’ overall economic productivity and shortened their life expectancy in the country.
On July 20, 2016, the Swedish Embassy and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) signed a $5.3 million collaboration agreement to implement the ‘Empowered and Fulfilled’, a four-year initiative.
Sweden contributed forty million Swedish Krona (SEK 40 million), approximately US$4,670,000 over the four years of the project implementation, while UNFPA contributed US$675,600.
The project aimed to increase young people’s awareness and skills regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights in Liberia’s southern counties, including Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, and River Gee.
It established an enabling atmosphere for the respect and fulfilment of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people, consequently helping to reduce the high prevalence of teenage pregnancies in Liberia.
Also, on August 18 2020, the Embassy of Sweden and the United Nations Population Fund signed an agreement for Sweden’s contribution of forty-three million Swedish Krona (SEK 43,000), approximately US$4.9 million to support UNFPA Country Program document for Liberia over the next four and half years.
The current UNFPA Country Program for Liberia (2020-2024) is fully aligned with the Government of Liberia’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) 2018-2023.
It aims to help achieve the goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHRs) by ensuring that women, adolescents, and youth, especially those who are marginalized and far behind, have improved access to high-quality, gender-responsive, comprehensive, and integrated services.
The Liberia Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan shows that the modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mPCR) among all women currently stands at 30.7%. The mCPR has changed significantly over the past decade, nearly tripling from 11.7%).
Further, women in urban areas have a slightly higher mCPR (31.6 percent) than their rural counterparts (29.1 percent).
However, the urban-rural gap is increasingly narrowing as more rural women use modern contraceptives. Within three years (2013 to 2016), the rural mCPR grew by 12.8 percentage points.
The plan shows more women seeking contraceptives in southeastern counties than in Greater Monrovia.
The Liberia Demographic Health Survey (LDHS) 2019–20 states that Liberia’s total fertility rate (TFR) is 4.2 children per woman.
The TFR is lower in urban areas (3.4 children per woman) than in rural areas (5.5 children per woman). Age-specific fertility rates peak at age 20–24 (193 births per 1,000 women) and are lowest among young women younger than 15 (4 births per 1,000 women) and women aged 45–49 (16 births per 1,000 women).
The LDHS places teenage pregnancy and motherhood in southeastern “A” counties that include: Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, RiverGee, Maryland, and Rivercess at 32% in 2007, 38% in 2009, and now 30% in 2019-20.
“Across the counties, the percentage of teenagers who have begun childbearing ranges from 19% in Maryland to 55% in RiverCess.”
The UNFPA 2020 report showed a 48 percent increase in teenage pregnancy in 2013, but in 2020 there is a decline of 27%.
Additionally, an FPA article titled “Teenage Pregnancy ‘Drastically’ Decreasing in Southeastern Liberia amid UNFPA, Swedish Government’s Intervention” shows 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.”
Yei Kilikpo, Executive Director of Public Health Intiatives Liberia (PHIL) says data report needs to corroborated with the reality adding that though the data has changed but the decrease is not 50 percent.
“If they both (data and reality) concur with each other it would be a great learning for the country and the sub-region . As National teen pregnancy is still the same in the space of 5 yrs the data didn’t change significantly as 31% teen girls got pregnant before the age of 18 in 2015 and by 2021 not much change as it went from 31 to 30,” said Madam Kilikpo.
Conclusion: Contraceptive use has grown in the South Eastern Counties, it is true, but teen pregnancy has not fallen by 50%.