COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world in unprecedented ways and Sierra Leone is not exceptional.
During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak the country went into a nine-month lockdown, which led to an upsurge in the number of pregnancies among girls and youthful women.
This was because of economic hardship, school closure, and increased sexual abuse (both coerced sex and consensual sex).
Health expert now fears that the coronavirus lockdown could lead to 23,000 extra teenage pregnancies by the end of this year.aa
Thankfully, an international charity organization has intervened. Save the Children in collaboration with Sierra Leone youth and Lulu Lab have created an interactive game app which provides both boys and girls reliable information about sex health and how to stay safe during this pandemic.
The Interactive Gaming and Educational App
The information provided by the app could be lifesaving, considering pregnancy is the number one cause of death of girls in Sierra Leone. It accounts for a quarter of all deaths of girls aged between 15 -19.
In Sub-Saharan Africa babies born to mothers under the age of 26 have a high mortality rate- they’re likely to die within the first month of their birth.
The school closures and economic hardship brought about by this pandemic puts women and girls worldwide at risk of getting unwanted pregnancies and being victims of gender violence. There’s also a high risk of child marriages.
Charity organizations like Save the Children help to address and averts such issues by providing cash, soap and food to girls facing hardship.
Furthermore, the agency provides teenage girls with vocational training, meaning they can boost their family income even when in school.
How Does The App Work?
In Sierra Leone, community taboos and online misinformation on sex and sexual health have made it difficult for young people to receive trustworthy information that can help them make informed decisions.
The interactive game app aims to fill this gap by providing teenagers with reliable and trustworthy information to help them understand sexual health and make informed choices that will not only protect them from pregnancy but from sexual transmitted diseases too.
The game takes players through the real challenges they face in their daily lives. The focus of the app is to debunk myths, share support contacts and prioritize education.
Because of the increasing threats of COVID-19, the team also includes vital information about social distancing and hygiene.
The app can be accessed online and offline via a tablet or smartphone because most Sierra Leone teenagers have mobile phones and over half of the mobile connection in the country is now in broadband.
For those children who lack tablets or smartphones, Save the Children holds facilitated sessions with the interactive app.