Realities of Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health in the Niger Delta
Many young people around the world, with particular focus in Nigeria lack access to sexual and reproductive health information and right-based services – this includes comprehensive sexuality education and contraception services free from violence, stigma, or discrimination.
Adolescents and youth in Nigeria begin sexual relationships at young age and faces significant challenges in obtaining appropriate information and services to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS (UNFPA, 2014) .
Also, available statistic shows that high prevalence of unsafe sexual behaviour, and consequently poor sexual and reproductive health outcome such as teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted infections are high among adolescents and youth. With progress made through specific interventions addressing the sexual and reproductive health challenges of youth includes Family Life and HIV Education (FLHE) and provision of youth friendly services in Nigeria – more need to be done regarding provision of effective services.
The reproductive health challenges for youth in the Niger Delta particularly in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa states calls for increased advocacy. And the time is now – to reimagine programs that will reach those farthest behind and in fragile settings of the coastal communities. It is known that lack of access to youth friendly services had tremendously altered a possible life path way of many youth contrary to their life’s aspirations and dreams. According to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, adolescents are to enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including access to contraception information and services.
Nigeria’s current population is estimated at over 190 million with an annual growth rate of 2.5% and fertility rate at 5.5%; this population structure is largely youthful. And it places the importance of prioritizing unhindered access for youth sexual reproductive health services as necessary to achieving the demographic dividend.
I-Plan advocacy workshop provides a platform for sharing of personal experiences with regards to access to youth friendly services including strengthening synergy between implementing partners, youth advocates and the government agency in Rivers state.
In a bid to address the salient realities of adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Niger Delta, Knit Together Initiative – with support from Gates Institute – the 120 Under 40 award seed grant – organized the I-plan Advocacy Workshop targeted at creating and defining working solutions and theories for change and increase to accessing judgement-free sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the state.
What we know!
Sharing on what’s known with respect to adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in the state – opened conversation that shades lights to the realities faced by adolescents and youth accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services. The challenges identified includes low/minimal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services; restricted access due to marital status; knowledge gap; cultural barriers. Despite the availability of family planning services in the state, the challenges on adolescents/youth friendly services remain high, largely due to their peculiar needs. These has resulted to NO targeted and judgement-free services for adolescents and youth.
The Desired Future!
To advance the well-being of all and subsequently contribute to the realization of the national development aspirations, sexual and reproductive health interventions clearly remain a good investment and their benefits are far reaching including social and economic developments. But, these must become inclusive, by ensuring that adolescents and youth needs are given the desire attention in programs implementation and service provision.
- Thus, age aggregated data is critical.
- More grass root reach to adolescents and youth who live in the rural communities so as to reduce the issues of multiple unintended pregnancies must be prioritize.
- There must be increase in sensitization on family planning to the public
- Adequate training and support for healthcare providers to enable them provide AYSRH services
- Innovations in contraception methods that support self administration for discreet purposes
- Integrated services lenses to AYSRH – bringing the services closer to the adolescent and youths; and elimination/reduction of family planning services for adolescents and youth.
The workshop made the news with following media houses; 95.1 Today FM, Radio Rivers and the Tide News paper with city scale reach. The online publication can be found here https://naijavoxpop.com/rivers-youths-demand-reproductive-health-care-access-knit-together-initiative/