The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED) has engaged the Sierra Leone Parliamentary Action Group on Population and Development (SLPAGPD) on the Sierra Leone International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) at 25 at the conference hall of the Ministry at Tower Hill in Freetown.
Some of the recommendations made by the MPs at the end of the engagement, include training of religious and traditional leaders on population and development issues as well as family planning, what are the strategies to harness the demographic dividends and challenges, that trained and qualified midwives do not receive their salaries regularly to motivate them especially those in Peripheral Health Units.
The MPs also questioned the 1% budgetary allocation to the Health Ministry for family planning if it is part of the health budget or a standalone budget.
In his PowerPoint presentation on the outcome of the Second Edition of the National Transfer Account (NTA) Africa Conference held in Senegal from 27th– 28th October this year, the Director of Planning, Policy and Research in the MoPED, Dr. Sheika Bangura enlightened that the Second Edition of the National Transfer Account (NTA) Africa Conference on inter-generational economic issues in Somone, Senegal is a platform established in 2018/19 to regularly engage researchers, policy-makers and planners to discuss research output on demographic issues and implications for the socio-economic transformation of the African region.
He informed that this year’s conference was mainly focused on creating a framework to address population and sustainable development issues in Africa with particular reference to harnessing the demographic dividends potential for the continent in the context of the current global health crisis and the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals adding that the conference brought together participants from all countries in West Africa, including researchers from the University of Kenya that is among the founders of NTA-Africa.
According to Dr. Bangura, much has not been done in Sierra Leone in the profiling of demographic dividends, the reason for the engagement with MPs to discuss the key outcomes of the Second Edition of the National Transfer Account (NTA) Africa Conference with a view to deriving opportunities the conference presents for advancing the harnessing of demographic dividends for the country underscoring that the discussions brought out suggestions to build on earlier efforts made by UNFPA, the MoPED and other stakeholders in domesticating the National Transfer Account concept to provide a comprehensive demographic dividend profile for Sierra Leone.
The Officer in Charge of UNFPA, Mr. Ibrahim Sambuli enlightened that population is at the heart of the work of his organization, commended government for the close collaboration and the SLPAGPD for enacting several laws such as the Sexual Offences Bill, establishing the Sexual Offences Court, the Women’s Empowerment Bill as well as establishment of the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy and the National Youth Council.
He furthered that the Sierra Leone government made a commitment in Kenya to allocate 1% of the health budget to family planning, observed that the training of midwives in the regions in the country is encouraging and revealed that government plans to employ 1,000 midwives and is working towards employing 3,000 midwives.
According to Mr. Ibrahim Sambuli, other commitments made by government at the conference include reducing child marriage and maternal mortality by 40% between 2013-2019, increase skilled birth attendants and assured government of UNFPA’s continued support.
Hon. Festus Mohamed Lansana of Constituency 015, Kenema District, Chairman of SLPAGPD revealed that 197 governments and 8,300 participants from various sectors attended the IPCD at the Jumo Kenyata International Conference Center in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss and agree to among others enact the Prohibition of the Child Marriage Bill and others but observed that a lot of work still has to be done.
He disclosed that SLPAGPD is dormant, that UNFPA donated 18 computers to the Group but that its lacks a budget for advocacy as Parliament only allocates funding for oversight functions.
Dr. Robert Moikowa, Director of Performance Management and Service Delivery, MoPED revealed that the National Population Policy (NPP) is to among others prevent citizens from illegally going abroad to seek greener pastures but instead encourage them to return home, enhance growth in human capital development, increase life expectancy, manage and not reduce the population, ensure zero gender based violence and harmful traditional practices by 2030.
Mr. Gabriel Dumbuya of the Population Unit, MoPED revealed that the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police has been established, that government pledged to increase modern contraceptive rate by 21%, trained service providers, procured and expanded modern contraceptives, provided and distributed family planning commodities nationwide in addition to training midwives in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Freetown.
Earlier, the Deputy Development Secretary, MoPED, Mr. Tamba Juana reminded all about the IPCD, that the engagement is for MPs to harness the demographic dividends aligned to Serra Leone’s Mid-Term National Development Plan and that progress is measured annually to ensure that the indicators are achieved although a lot still remains to be done to harness the demographic dividends to catch-up with other countries.
The general discussions and responses and the question and answer session climaxed the highly interactive engagement.