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The Officer-in-Charge, UNFPA Sierra Leone, has called for renewed commitment to the promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning, especially of adolescent girls, women and young people.

Dr Sennen Hounton was addressing stakeholders at this year’s event marking the 6th annual commemoration of Safe Motherhood Day and the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa - CARMMA in Sierra Leone at the Bo Government Hospital on March 22.

He described the event as not only as an opportunity to reflect on progress made and identify areas of strategic interventions to improve utilization of health services, but also to encourage young people to take up family planning and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Dr Hounton observed that when adolescents and young people are adequately equipped with knowledge and skills that protect them and can help them make informed decisions, they can realize their full potential and contribute more meaningfully to economic and social transformation as current and future leaders.

He therefore underscored the need for young people, particularly adolescent girls, to improve their health-seeking behavior.

Early sexual initiation, he said, can give rise to several problems in the future of the girl, including untreated Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), which lead to sterility and even cancer.

Cervical cancer can be prevented and managed effectively if identified earlier. It is for this reason that we have to ensure that girls receive screening or the HPV vaccine at the right time', he said.

He said UNFPA, along with other UN agencies, is providing technical, financial and logistical supports towards strengthening and promoting access to comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, with special focus on ensuring skilled birth attendance and Emergency Obstetric Care services, preventing unplanned/unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Dr Hounton concluded by reminding all that ‘the road ahead is still long, but a journey that does not start cannot be finished, the reason why UNFPA, with partners and its donors, would like to congratulate the First Lady on her initiative for her continued passion in improving the welfare of women and adolescent girls so we complete the journey'.

Such journey will be completed when every 10 years old adolescent girl of Sierra Leone stays in school, is not married off, complete her education, is protected against HIV, teenage pregnancy, cervical cancer, against all forms of Gender Based Violence, and fulfills her own potential’.

The event was attended by stakeholders from all works of life, including Government officers, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and development partners.

CARMMA was launched by the African Union in May 2009, with support from UNFPA, to trigger concerted and increased action on improving maternal and newborn health and survival across the continent. CARMMA was launched in Sierra Leone in March 2010.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is 'Addressing institutional deliveries, teenage pregnancy and awareness on cervical cancer screening'.

This year’s celebration as usual, was championed by the Office of the First Lady, in collaboration with a host of other partners including the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, UNFPA, Marie Stopes Sierra Leone and UN Women.