Sierra Leone’s education disparity is affecting the quality and accessibility of reproductive healthcare. Low education parallels with the inaccessibility of contraception, consultations and health facilities. Contraception usage, like injectables and the pill, is six times higher among wealthy Sierra Leonean women. Early childbearing before the age of 18 among poor women is 58 percent, as opposed to 29 percent for their wealthy counterparts. The total fertility rate among poor Sierra Leonean women is about twice that of wealthy women with a higher education.
Sierra Leone’s underdeveloped reproductive healthcare access also puts its adolescent women at risk. Young women between the ages of 15 and 19 are at a greater risk of infant and child mortality, as well as high risks of morbidity and mortality for the young mother.
Additionally, 28 percent of poor Sierra Leonean women give birth unaccompanied by health personnel, as opposed to the 78 percent of their rich counterparts accompanied by health personnel during childbirth. The reason for this, the World Bank logged, is that 89 percent of women experience at least one problem accessing healthcare, 80 percent lack sufficient funds for treatment and 53 percent live too far from health facilities to travel to.
Mary Turey, a maternal health promoter in Kamalo village in Sierra Leone’s Northern Bombali District, has acknowledged the proximity issue. She and other villagers offer a room in their homes for women traveling long distances to health facilities to stay safely overnight. Turey provides women with essential information about pregnancy and refers them to nearby health centers. In 2014, she and her fellow villagers referred 3,862 pregnant Sierra Leonean women to health facilities, where they were able to give birth safely.
In terms of policy and legislation, USAID created the Child Survival and Health Grants Program – dubbed ‘Al Pikin fo Liv’ or ‘Every Child Must Live’ – in order to carry out the goal of ending preventable neonatal and maternal deaths. Its partnerships with nongovernmental organizations, academia and ministries of health have trained 1,300 health workers and peer supervisors, developing and enhancing the quality of care at health units for procedures across the board. The Child Survival and Health Grants Program has improved the health of more than 36,000 children and 37,000 women in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
– Tiffany Teresa Santos