Sep 10th, 2012 4:38 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
This post by Kadiatu Blango was kindly provided by Restless Development
My name is Kadiatu, I am 20 and have two daughters. I had my second child when I was 18. Like every mother, I want the very best for my children and do everything I can for them, but I worry that it will be difficult for them, just like it was for me.
Kadiatu and her two daughters in their community
My father died when I was very young and I was only able to go to school up until the age of six. I left my mother’s home to go and live with my uncle, but he was hardly ever around. His wife, my aunt, did not care for me as she did her own children and we did not get on. I was forced to carry out domestic chores while her children were able to attend school.
As the war became more intense, we moved to Freetown. Upon my return to the village my mother forced me to be initiated into the bondo society, a group that practices female genital cutting. I did not want to. I wanted to go to school.
My mother told me that she couldn’t afford to pay my school fees, and yet she could afford to spend a lot of money on the initiation process. Once initiated, I was forced into marriage at the age of 12 and became pregnant the same year. The baby’s father left when I was six months pregnant. I haven’t seen him since. I suffered a lot to raise the baby with no support from my mother or any other relative. Selling wood, potato and cassava leaves were the main sources of income for myself and my child.
There was no way I could continue with schooling without parental support. Later, I met another guy who fooled around with me and made me believe he could handle my problems. He started well, but then he got me pregnant and ran away to Liberia. I got my second child at the age of 18. Life is very hard and quite challenging for us coming from a very poor family but we all do our best.
It should not be like this for me and nor for my two daughters. I want them to be free to get an education, and to not be worried about marrying too young or experiencing violence. I want them to grow up to be strong young women who can make their own choices, go to school, own land and control their own lives.
Kadiatu Blango outlines a few answers to questions from Restless Development:
What challenges do women face in your community?
The main challenges faced by women are numerous to name but a few are:
How does your family make a living?
What opportunities would you like to see for your kids?
What would you like to see leaders promise to do to help communities like yours?
What would you like world leaders to focus on that would have impact on your life?
Underlying these points are high rates of teenage pregnancy. About 34 percent of women aged 15 to 19 have either already had a baby or are pregnant. This also often leads to interrupted education, reduced earning potential, poor marital outcomes and reduced health outcomes for surviving children.
Furthermore, youth unemployment is a major problem in Sierra Leone, with an estimated one-third of urban and one-sixth of rural 20- to 24-year-olds out of work, and more than 17 percent of the urban populations aged 15 to 35 years unemployed. Work opportunities are rare (around 9 percent of the workforce are formally employed), which means that stories like Kadiatu’s are mainly the norm rather than the exception.
Featuring contributions from African citizens who are living in communities affected by extreme poverty, ONE’s African Voices series will follow their progress to give a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges they face and also to track changes that occur over time. Find out more at one.org/africanvoices.
Restless Development is an agency that places young people at the forefront of change and development. It works in Africa and Asia to empower young people to take their lives into their own hand and trains, educates and inspires young people to be part of the solution. Find out more at www.restlessdevelopment.org
Nov 12th, 2010 9:15 PM UTC
By His Excellency Mr. Edward Turay
For World Pneumonia Day this year I am speaking at the flagship UK event, which is being held in the Houses of Parliament. I will be speaking in front of an audience of parliamentarians, Government representatives, leading NGOs and other interested parties and I am proud that I will be able to relay to them the story of Sierra Leone’s progress in fighting terrible diseases such as pneumonia, the leading killer of children worldwide.
In the recent past Sierra Leone has had some turbulence, including political instability and conflict. This was reflected in our healthcare outcomes. Back in the year 2000, during the Civil War, maternal mortality stood at 1,300 deaths per 100,000 and child mortality stood at 252 deaths per 1,000. These are staggering figures, which suggested a bleak future for my country.
But we have spent the last few years building political stability and moving forward. One of the key strands of our redevelopment has been investment in healthcare. Since the year 2000 total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased by 17% and per capita government spending on healthcare has doubled since 1995.
Our current President, Ernest Bai Koroma, is particularly strident in improving healthcare outcomes. Last April he launched the Free Health Care Services for Pregnant and Lactating Women and Young Children strategy. This has had some impressive initial results. The numbers of children and mothers seeking medical health has doubled and the use of anti-malarial drugs for children has increased by over 372%.
We are striding forward and our maternal and child mortality rates have fallen by an impressive 31% and 23% respectively.
But we do face significant challenges going forward.
Pneumonia is one of these challenges.
Each year this terrible disease claims the lives of 8,500 children in Sierra Leone, that is 23 children every day. Together pneumonia and diarrhoea account for an estimated 40% of all child deaths.
But we are taking this dreadful disease on. We rolled out the Hib vaccine recently, which protects against one of the major causes of pneumonia and next year we will roll out the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help to protect children against the leading cause of pneumonia.
This has been made possible through our determination and through the support of organisations such as the GAVI Alliance, who are helping us to roll out the pneumococcal vaccine next year as well as supporting us through recent years. We are also indebted to the work of a number of other key organisations like the ONE Campaign.
So on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day I am proud to say that Sierra Leone is a country on the move and next World Pneumonia Day I hope to be able to report even further progress in tackling devastating diseases such as pneumonia.
His Excellency Mr Edward Turay is High Commissioner for Sierra Leone in the UK. He has held the position since the beginning of this year and was previously a leading politician for the ruling ACP party in Sierra Leone.
For more information please see:
Oct 13th, 2008 12:13 PM UTC
By Nora Coghlan
The plight of mothers in Sierra Leone graced the cover of yesterday’s Washington Post. Sierra Leone is home to the world’s highest maternal mortality rate: mothers face a 1 in 8 chance of dying in childbirth. This is compared to 1 in 4,800 in the United States and 1 in 20 in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.
The story of Saio Marah highlights some of the factors behind these high mortality rates. Marah arrived at the hospital by motorbike, the predominant mode of transport in the rural Sierra Leone. She is examined by Dr. Konteh (an ophthalmologist by training), who informs that her that she had waited too long to come to the hospital: the baby’s heart rate is too fast and she needs an emergency caesarian section. But all of the surgical nurses had gone home and the operation will have to wait until the team can track its way back to the hospital.
The article continues:
It was a Monday evening, and her husband, Mohamed Barrie, said she had gone into labor on Saturday. Both of them were worried about the expense of going to the hospital, he said, and were sure she could deliver easily enough without assistance from hospital doctors. So they had gone to a neighborhood clinic where a nurse examined her and sent her home. Now she was three centimeters dilated, her water had broken and she had finally come to the only hospital in Koinadugu, a sprawling and rural expanse in the far northeastern corner of this West African nation.
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