The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage, adolescents’ health must be prioritised through appropriate investment and effective coordination.
Ehanire said this on Tuesday in Abuja at a news conference to commemorate the 2022 National and International Adolescent Health Week.
The theme of the week-long participatory event for stakeholders working in adolescent health space is “Transitions: Building a case for the visibility of adolescents in Nigeria while transitioning from a pre-pandemic to a life shaped by the pandemic.”
Ehanire noted that adolescents constitute a significant proportion of Nigeria’s population and that the National Demographic and Health Survey, 2018, showed that 19 per cent of teenage girls are mothers, pregnant with their first child, while 32 per cent do not attend ante-natal care.
He also said the survey indicated that 66 per cent delivered without supervision by skilled birth attendants, adding that the situation was compounded with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s already fragile health system.
The minister said that during the commemoration of the IAHW in 2021, he informed stakeholders of government’s commitment towards prioritising the welfare of adolescents in Nigeria.
He revealed that progress had been made in that regard, as the National Adolescent Health and Development Technical Working Group was repositioned and inaugurated for better performance.
Ehanire said membership of the group was drawn from relevant stakeholders, including young people-led organisations.
He also said that the Ministry of Health had created a budget line at the national level for adolescents, developed a two-year national cost workplan and prioritised activities for implementation in 2022.
According to the minister, the national adolescent health policy is being domesticated, while frontline health workers’ capacities are being built and strengthened at the sub-national level.
This, he said, was done in collaboration with its partners — the World Health Organisation, United Nations Children’s Fund, Lafiya project, among others.
He gave an assurance that the federal government remained resolute in ensuring access to quality health for Nigerians.
Ehanire, therefore, urged stakeholders to promote and champion any adolescent health issue that is relevant in their various communities.
“I call on you to observe IAHW by championing any adolescent health issue relevant in your various communities that can encourage healthy behaviours and habits, focusing on socio-economic determinants of health and adolescents’ rights,” he said.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, on his part, noted that for any nation to grow and thrive, attempts must be made to ensure that adolescents, who are the soul of the population, are adequately cared for.
He said “to grow and develop in good health, adolescents need information, including age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education; opportunities to develop life skills; health services that are acceptable, equitable, appropriate, effective, safe and supportive environments.
“They also need opportunities to meaningfully participate in the design and delivery of interventions to improve and maintain their health. Plans to expand these opportunities are key to responding to adolescents’ specific needs and rights.”
Mamora also said that it was important to discuss deeply on the need to provide adolescents with comprehensive, appropriate, confidential and reliable services.
The minister maintained that there was need for policy implementation that uses adolescent self-reported data to assess the quality of preventive care provided to youths.
“Adolescents have the right to healthcare, confidentiality of care, preventive care and desired measurable health outcomes that should be highly rewarded by stakeholders to promote high-quality adolescent service delivery in Nigeria.”
The Chief of Health, UNICEF, Dr. Eduardo Celades, said everyone must join hands to ensure that adolescents are visible in the nation’s policies, especially in planning, budgetary allocations and services in all sectors.
He said that they should also be visible in public and private sectors, at home, in communities, cultural and religious circles.
“To achieve these in a sustainable manner, we must empower adolescents and give them the space to engage and participate meaningfully,” he added.