United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Liberia Assistant Representative, Dr. Philderald Pratt has stressed the need to ensure access to comprehensive, quality sexual and reproductive health services in Liberia, including life-saving emergency obstetric care and most importantly family planning services for women and girls of childbearing ages.
“Family planning’s benefits range from improved maternal and child health to increased education and empowerment for women, more financially secure families and stronger national economies”, Dr. Pratt emphasized.
“In Liberia, according to 2007 and 2013 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey, the use of modern family planning methods has increased from 11 percent in 2007 to 19 percent in 2013. This increase can be attributed to efforts by the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and its partners in integrating family planning into the country’s comprehensive reproductive health services.”
He however said comparatively, while there has been an increase in the use of family planning services in Liberia over the past 10 years, those using these services represent less than a quarter of the general population with knowledge of the benefit of family planning; something which the UNFPA Assistant Representative says his agency is working with the Government and other partners to improve upon.
Dr. Pratt also called for sustained efforts to eliminate obstetric fistula from the country, one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries. Obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and bladder or rectum of a woman caused by prolonged, obstructed labor without treatment, according to medical experts.
Speaking recently in Monrovia at a birthday reception tendered in his honor by the management and staff of UNFPA Liberia, Dr. Pratt said fistula is an assault on women’s and girls’ health and human rights, which steals from them their very dignity and destroys the most fundamental of human qualities – hope.
He said much of the world has already virtually eliminated fistula, so it was time the Government of Liberia and partners step up efforts to wipe fistula out of here. The UNFPA Liberia Representative noted that globally, it is estimated that at least 2 million women live with the condition and 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occur every year, saying “Women and girls living with fistula are among the most marginalized and neglected, and the persistence of fistula is a grave illustration of serious inequalities and the denial of rights and dignity.”
He further stressed that with the right combination of political will and leadership, financial commitment and scaling up of evidence-based, cost-effective, quality interventions, ending forced marriage and ensuring girls education as well as voluntary family planning, Liberia can end the needless suffering of women and girls and also ensure that others do not suffer similar fate.
The Government of Liberia with support from UNFPA launched the Liberia Fistula Project in 2007 to address issues of fistula in the country. Over 1300 women and girls have since been treated under the project.