Preliminary results of the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) recently released in Sierra Leone indicate that the country improved health services in the last five years. If compared with the previous survey, indicators, especially in the area of reproductive health, can put the West African nation on track to achieve internationally agreed development goals.
The use of modern family planning methods among married women, for instance, doubled since 2008, from 7 percent to 16 percent and the same happened with childbirths in health facilities: institutional deliveries doubled from 25 percent to 56 percent in five years. Other indicators have also improved. Antenatal care by skilled birth attendants has increased from 87 percent to 97 percent and deliveries by a skilled health care provider have risen from 42 percent to 61 percent.
“While data on maternal mortality is yet to be released, we are seeing encouraging trends in other areas,” said the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo. “These results will encourage all partners to continue to work together, to further strengthen our interventions and our methods, so that progress in the health sector in Sierra Leone is sustained.”
According to UNFPA, improved indicators in Sierra Leone reflect concerted action by the Government and development agencies working in the country. “We have helped strengthen civil society monitoring, which in turn lead to increased availability of life-saving medicines and reduced contraceptive stock-out,” UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi explained.
However, the country faces many challenges. Some 38 percent of the young women already had a child before turning 18 and teenage pregnancies still contribute to 34 percent of maternal deaths. A recent review revealed that 50 percent of maternal deaths occur in health facilities.
“We are working together with the government to build capacity in the area of reproductive health, renew structures, provide equipment and supplies,” explained Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi. “These are our priorities so that we can achieve even better results in the years to come.