Government’s free health care initiative is seriously being undermined in Kono district giving that teenage girls in the district have seized the opportunity to engage in early sex and consequently getting pregnant.
The Free Health Care provides free medical care service to lactating mothers, pregnant women and children under five. Established in 2010 is aimed at reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5.
However, four years on, indications are that many people mostly in rural communities do not have adequate understanding and knowledge of the free health care initiative.
In Kono, the aim of the initiative to reduce the incidents of death in child birth of women and girls appears untenable. Records have indicated that there is an increase in girl-child dropouts as a consequence of early pregnancy.
In January this year, sources within the Koidu Girls’ Secondary School (KGSS) reveal that a fifteen year old SSS 2 girl, died as a result of pregnancy complications. This development had urged community leaders and medical experts to adopt mechanisms aimed at monitoring teenage pregnancies in the district.
KGSS is the biggest girls’ secondary school in the district and attracts girls from all over the district each year because of its quality education. This accolade however has since dissipated due the rampant pregnancy of girls in the school, mostly boarding pupils.
Some of the Teachers who appear uncomfortable with the latest development and “bad name” of the school disclosed to this reporter on anonymity that many of the girls are being impregnated by the some of the teachers who are permanently resident on campus. They maintain that the teachers lure the girls to have sex with them for grades. Other teachers who also spoke to this reporter however vehemently denied this allegation, describing it as “unfounded”.
One of the girls who said she has been sexually harassed more than once by her teachers told this reporter that they are even afraid to speak out openly on the issue for fear of being oppressed by the teachers who are the perpetrators.
“Our Principal is always out of school though there are other authorities to administer the school in her absence and we have nowhere to complain,” an anonymous girl said, noting that about five of her friends between the ages of 15 and 17 have dropped out of school because of their unplanned and unprepared-for pregnancies.
“We are appealing to government and other institutions to constantly monitor schools within Kono District. Advocating for girls today will be a better way of protecting the future of women in Kono and ensuring their empowerment for the future,” the girl maintained.
Investigations further revealed that teenage pregnancy is not only limited to schools in Kono, but also in the different communities across the district. Out of 10 communities visited, reports from Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) revealed that teenage pregnancy was on the increase, which to a great extent is undermining free health care service delivery in those communities.
Health practitioners reported that the free health care supplies are always not enough because of the increasing number of pregnant women and lactating mothers. In communities such as Jagbwema in Gorama Kono Chiefdom, the Community Health Officer, (CHO), Patrick Borbor said, his PHU is serving nine villages but because of its location, lactating mothers from villages in the Lower Bambara Chiefdom in Kenema District come in for the service.
“We are getting patients more than expected. Even the 3 months supplies we receive are not enough. The vaccines are kept 12 miles away from here because of the bad road network. We are appealing to government to give special support to health workers in remote villages. We have reports that most of the health workers posted here refuse to come as a result of the poor condition of service,” CHO Borbor said.
At Tefeya in the Sandor Chiefdom, Nurse Mariama Koroma attached to the PHU admitted that there is an increase in teenage pregnancy among girls in that part of the district, which is negatively affecting the free health care service delivery as the drug supplied are always not enough due to the increase in teenage pregnancy.
Additional investigation in Bumpeh Town in Nimikoro Chiefdom indicated that there is an increase in teenage pregnancy in the district since 2013 due to the high rate of poverty according to Momoudu Matturie, the youth leader.
Councilor Mattu Sumana of Ward 68 in Sandor Chiefdom, who is also the Development Planning Chair Person in Kono District in an exclusive interview agreed that teenage pregnancy was on the increase in the District, but with sensitization and constant engagement with parents in Sandor Chiefdom by CSOs, the problem is gradually reducing in that chiefdom.
“Sometimes the parents themselves are responsible for teenage pregnancy among young girls because they do see expensive phones that worth Le 400,000 to Le 500,000 with their daughters without questioning the sources. In some homes, I believe that these children prostitute to support their homes.” She said, explaining that these mostly result in teenage pregnancy among school going girls
Tuesday May 13, 2014