Monrovia — The Queen of the Belgians, Her Majesty Queen Mathilde on Thursday paid a virtual visit to and met with the UN Country Team (UNCT). Her visit served to illustrate the work of the United Nations on the ground in Liberia with focus on adolescent health and teenage pregnancy, as well as mental health issues.
It comes 11 years after she made her in-person visit to Liberia in her capacity as UNICEF and UNAIDS Special Representative.
Led by UN Resident Coordinator Niels Scott, the team brought the Queen together with young Liberian girls and youth via a video conference, who directly spoke on adolescent health, teenage pregnancies, substance abuse, mental health challenges, and their aspirations.
“It is an honor for the UN Country Team in Liberia to receive Her Majesty Queen of the Belgians to Liberia 11 years after her previous visit,” Mr. Niels Scott. “This is a great opportunity to see what has changed, the remaining challenges and how we can work together to address them. With a focus on youth, we would like to convey a message of not only challenges but one of hope for the future.”
He also said “It is the challenges and hope embodied by many Liberian youths and their peers- challenges in mental and reproductive health, which the UNCT in Liberia would like to highlight in Her Majesty’s visit to Liberia”.
The UN Development Coordinator Office Regional Director for Africa, a.i Yacoub Ali El-Hillo, followed these remarks by stating “A steep rise in mental health, adolescent pregnancies and child marriages is not just an issue in Liberia. These are Africa’s problem”. Mr. El-Hillo also noted that “underlying problems with our essential healthcare stem from inequality, underfunding, complacency, and neglect. By addressing these fundamental issues and bolstering primary health care systems and universal health coverage, the countries will grow faster and recover more quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Liberia is one of the youngest countries in the world, where 63 percent of the population is below 25 years old. Three out of 10 girls get pregnant before 18. Four out of 5 sexual and gender-based violence survivors are girls. It is estimated that one out of five Liberians experiences mild or moderate mental health issues.
One of the participants explained to Queen Mathilde the severe challenges she has faced with being a teenage mother in Liberia, saying she can’t attend school and associate freely with her peers because of the stigma around teenage mothers. However, she emphasized that her dream for the future is to go back to school and become a lawyer.
Queen Mathilde, in turn, expressed her appreciation to both the UN Country Team and the young girls and youth. Resident Coordinator Scott stressed the need to address the fundamental issues related to health care systems and bolster universal health coverage to support those that are left behind.
This was part of Her Majesty Queen Mathilde’s visit to UN House in Brussels. As SDG Advocate, she discussed the importance of international cooperation to achieve the SDGs and how to emerge stronger together from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, in press stakeout with the UN Country Team following the Her Majestic’s virtual visit, Mr. Scott flank by heads of several UN agencies in Liberia pledged the UN commitment to working with the government of Liberia to address adolescent health including teenage pregnancies, substance abuse and mental health challenges.