By Chioma Obinna & Chinelo Azike
The Society for Family Health, SFH, has urged the Federal Government to prioritise adolescent girls’ access to health and critical social services with a view to achieving major targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.
In a press statement made available to Good Health Weekly, SFH Deputy Project Director of Adolescents 360 (A360), Pharm. Fifi Ogbondeminu said adolescent access to health would promote social inclusiveness and help drive down maternal mortality such as unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion among adolescent girls and women.
According to the statement, Ogbondeminu who spoke at the National Conference on Inclusivity, Equality & Diversity in University Education hosted by the University of Lagos explained that SFH started A360 in June 2017 to break down barriers to some critical social and health services for adolescent girls aged 15 – 19 years by creating safe spaces in public health facilities where they can achieve their dreams by acquiring life skills, vocational skills, and making informed choices to create the future they want.
She added that A360 co-designed the 9ja Girls programme in southern Nigeria and Matasa Matan Arewa (MMA) in the north with adolescent girls and their influencers. The programme is funded by the Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
Ogbondeminu posited that a good starting point is the review and implementation of the National Policy on Integrating Youth-Friendly Services into Existing Primary Health Care Centres.
“While testing prototypes when A360 started, we considered the use of the existing youth-friendly centres and PHCs to determine which was better for integrating youth-friendly services into the system. We found out that girls were willing to access services in PHCs as long as the providers were youth-friendly,” she added. The federal and state governments are therefore urged to upscale safe spaces for adolescent girls to more primary health care facilities.
“The government could adopt replicable components of A360 programmes and absorb the trained volunteers, which will ensure trained and skilled youth-friendly providers remain in the system and girls continue to have access to adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) services even after A360 project closes out in 2020.
”States should also train service providers to be youth-friendly and provide Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health, thereby increasing the network of youth-friendly service providers, which will in turn increase access.”
The Regional Coordinator of the A360 Project, Adebusola Odulaja said one of the challenges of the progamme was long distances to facilities, and that adolescents are usually deprived of access to services. We see cases of facility security personnel turning girls back, thereby denying them access,” Odulaja explained.
“By ensuring inclusiveness for adolescents, SDG Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages); and Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) will be automatically addressed.
Other major SDG targets that may be impacted are those relating to reduction of maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births; ending the epidemic of AIDS and other sexually transmissible infections; ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.
Ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.