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Young people

UNFPA Sierra Leone’s key interventions to empower adolescents and young people cover a range of services that include providing life skills to young people, youth-friendly health services and safe spaces and girls’ clubs. These measures are designed to support livelihoods and develop capacity, as well as to build personal knowledge and social environments that promote good health and personal safety.

According to the 2015 Population and Housing Census Thematic report on Children, Adolescents and Youth:

  • Persons under 35 years of age make up about 80 percent of the entire population
  • Adolescents aged 10-19 years constitute nearly one quarter (24.4 percent) of the total national population
  • Two in five young people 35 years and below have never attended school
  • Seven in ten adolescents aged 10-14 years have attained primary or Junior Secondary School level of education
  • 41.4 percent of those aged 15-19 in rural areas are illiterate compared to 14.2 percent in urban areas
  • Girls and young women are likely to marry and have children at a very early age, and drop out of school earlier than boys
  • Adolescents aged 15- 19 years contribute to 11.6 percent of all children ever born by women aged 10-54 years
  • Malaria is the most predominant cause of death among young persons below 20 years. Two in five deaths among children below 10 years are reported to be caused by the disease.

Results of the 2013 Sierra Leone Demographic Health survey indicates that:

  • Median age of first marriage rises from 18.2 years among women aged 25-29 years to 19.4 years among women aged 20-24 years 
  • 12.5 percent of girls are married by the age of 15 and 38.9 percent of girls are married by the age of 18 (among 20-24 year olds)
  • In some parts of the country, girls as young as 12 years old are given into marriage. Early age at first marriage among the females could also lead to high fertility, especially in situation of little or no contraceptive use
  • Among women age 15-19, 74 percent have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) and among those aged 15-49, 90 percent have undergone FGM
  • Adolescent birth rate is 125 births per 1,000 women age 15-19
  • 28 per cent of adolescents aged 15 -19 years old have begun childbearing
  • Young people 35 years and below contribute 44.2 percent of all children ever born by women aged 10-54 years.  


As part of the efforts to reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancies in Sierra Leone, with funding from UK aid, Irish Aid and the Government of Canada, the Government, under the leadership of the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy, UNFPA and UNICEF, provided technical assistance to develop a new strategy for the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy and Child Marriage 2018-2022.

Providing life skills to adolescents and young people

A 2016 study commissioned by the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy identified school dropout, illiteracy and peer influence as contributing factors to teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. The study indicated that girls equipped with key life skills such as knowledge about the process of contraception and higher levels of relationship control were less likely to fall pregnant than their peers.

In 2017, with Irish Aid funding, UNFPA, UNICEF and Save the Children provided technical support to the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy, to develop life skills manuals for young people aged 9–13 and for those aged 14 years and older. The life skills manuals were developed with the national cultural context in mind and lessons taught in the Krio Language and other languages. The life skills manuals contain information on sexual and reproductive health and other physical, intellectual, and psychological developmental issues. UNFPA supported the training of facilitators to cascade their knowledge to targeted service providers such as health care-workers, teachers, non-governmental staff, social workers, peer educators and community health workers. Pre-training and post training test scores indicated that training was highly beneficial; the pre-test average score was 59 percent to the post-test average score of 73.3.

Assessment of adolescent and youth friendly health services

Early in 2017, UNFPA supported the National Adolescent and School Health Programme of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to conduct a baseline assessment of Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Services in 30 community health centres throughout the country. The main objective of the assessment was to determine the status of the structure, supplies staffing and services in selected healthcare facilities in order to implement quality improvement methodologies and processes in these facilities. Key findings included the following: spaces for services for adolescents were either not available, or if available, were shared with family planning services or required further exploration. Key supplies for the provision of quality adolescent SRH services were not available in many of the assessed facilities, and only 66.7 percent of the facilities had at least one staff trained in adolescent and youth friendly health services. Family planning posters were the most common IEC/BCC materials in all the facilities. This indicated the need to invest in IEC/BCC targeting adolescents and youth.

About one third of the facilities lacked an adolescent and youth friendly health services register. Completion of registers is generally poor. These findings indicated that there is a dire need to invest in SRH and rights services and information to adolescents and youth, and the UNFPA will be working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Adolescent and School Health Programme, and other stakeholders, to address these findings.

Training on adolescent and youth friendly services

In 2017, to improve service delivery to adolescents and young people:

  • 240 healthcare workers from six districts, including the Western Area (rural and urban) were trained in adolescent and youth friendly health service provision. Among the participants were nurses and midwives. Topics covered included family planning, sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and HIV. The training aimed to provide health care workers with the right skills to provide health services to adolescents and young people in an effective and non-judgmental way.
  • As a result of the training, an estimated 3,578 adolescents were reached with SRH and family planning services and information.
  • 542 service providers were trained to provide life skills to adolescent girls in various districts.
  • 360 personnel in fourteen districts were trained through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
  • 182 service providers were trained with the support of UNFPA and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through the National School and Adolescent Health Programme.