Youth-Friendly Centers Provide Safe Space for Reproductive Health Care Services in Liberia
The centers offer contraception methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs, individual counseling sessions, and social support
Posted on Dec 23, 2020
Over the past two years, 20-year-old Comfort Cheebo has never missed an appointment for her birth control shots, which are injected every three months. That’s because she doesn’t want an unplanned pregnancy to stand in the way of her career goals.
“Pregnancy by choice, not by chance,” community health volunteers often emphasize, with the goal of empowering youth to make informed decisions.
Many women in Maryland County, Liberia—where Comfort is a high school senior—have already had at least one child by the time they’re her age and often have another on the way. The average age for bearing the first child is 18.4 years old, and about 40 percent of women ages 15-19 have already given birth.
Comfort does not yet want to have a child, which is why she was intrigued when she learned about a youth-friendly center (YFC) that provides family planning services. The center also provides condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV.
A Partners In Health (PIH) community outreach event introduced Comfort to the clinic, which is held in PIH-supported Pleebo Health Center.
“I decided to inquire more about the services so that I can concentrate on my education and finish school to become an accountant,” says Comfort.
Impressed by the staff’s strict confidentiality and anti-stigmatization policies, Comfort has continued to regularly visit the clinic.
It’s a social space, too, which was one of the goals when developing the clinic.
“Whenever I come to the center, I meet other girls of my age to interact with,” says Comfort. “We are able to freely ask the midwife all the questions and myths we hear in the community for clarification.”
PIH and the Liberian government have established and supported the youth-friendly centers through the United Nations Population Fund’s Empowered and Fulfilled (E&F) program funded by the Swedish government. These centers are helping to eliminate barriers to care and education, giving Comfort and other Liberian youth the opportunity to stay healthy and enrolled in school, and to realize their full potential.
Since 2018, YFCs have responded to the unique challenges and unmet needs of adolescents and have helped reduce the high rates of teen pregnancy in the four southeastern counties of Liberia—Maryland, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, and River Gee.
PIH supports seven YFCs in Maryland County by training staff and volunteers and supplying reproductive health commodities, ultimately supporting sexual reproductive health and family planning services for more than 17,425 adolescents.
Ministry of Health employee Lewis Kruger Jr., a registered midwife, runs adolescent sexual reproductive services at Pleebo Health Center’s YFC.
“I run the facility from Monday to Saturday, and I can boldly say it has contributed to the reduction of teenage pregnancy in Maryland,” says Lewis, who provides care to about 30 clients each day. “And I am happy that due to the community sensitization and integrated counseling sessions, it has increased the utilization of sexual health and family planning services by the youth.”