“What happened to me in Ebola will not happen during Corona.”
In disasters and outbreaks, it’s women and children who suffer the most. Kadiatu* 17, a beneficiary of ‘Second Chance’ Project by Save the Children lives at the Rokupa wharf, a densely populated fishing community where thousands of people live in makeshift homes built with mud and corrugated metal sheets.
During the Ebola outbreak, schools were closed for almost a year to prevent children and teachers contracting the deadly virus. It was during this period that Kadiatu* faced her worst nightmare: she got pregnant for a boy whose family was well off. “My family and I were desperate, we hardly had enough money for food. When I asked my mother for food, she would tell me that I’m a big girl, so I should find ways of bringing in money to feed the family.” Coming from a family that could barely provide one square meal a day Kadiatu* became the breadwinner “That is how I ended up getting pregnant” she said. “I dropped out of school when I was just about to take the Junior Secondary School Exams.”
In a study conducted in 2005, after Ebola, findings showed a dramatic rise of over 60 percent in teenage pregnancy rates during the nine months of school closure. To mitigate a recurrence of this tragedy during COVID-19, Save the Children distributed food and non-food items to over 400 child mothers and teenage girls in vulnerable Western Area communities.
Remembering what she went through, Kadiatu* is determined not to let history repeat itself. “At least with this supply, I don’t have to go out looking for food and ending up pregnant.”
Her experience has motivated her to bring girls together with similar stories to do what she calls “small, small sensitization.” where she meets with teenage girls to share her story and advise them on the negative impacts of teenage pregnancy. “We were lucky to give birth safely at such a young age. I worry for some of these children because they might not be so lucky.”
The Second Chance Project, funded by Danida, seeks to reduce the negative effects of teenage pregnancy in eight slum communities in Freetown.
As our contribution to supporting government during this pandemic, Save the Children will continue to ensure that we work towards fulfilling our ambition for children to survive, learn and be protected.