nma/ doctor/ kidnapping rural healthcare divide
Rural areas often face a lack of essential healthcare services.

WPD: Health Educator Advocates Enhanced Reproductive Services in PHCs

A Public Health Educator, Mercy Aiyedun has called for the integration of adolescent, and youth-friendly reproductive health services in Primary Health Care facilities across the country.

The expert, a Nguvu Change Leader, highlighted the critical need for more attention to be placed on this vital aspect of public health, stressing that reproductive healthcare remains a cornerstone of overall health and well-being for individuals and communities alike.

In a statement made available to our correspondent in commemoration of World Population Day, Aiyedun argued that access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare is not just a matter of individual health but also impacts broader societal outcomes

The 2024 World Population Day is celebrated on July 11, with the theme, “Leave no one behind, count everyone”.

According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund, every day in developing countries, 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth, adding that this amounts to 7.3 million births per year.

The UN agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide, noted that the number of adolescent pregnancies is much higher if all pregnancies are included, not just births.

It noted that the situation is no different in Nigeria, with the United Nations Children’s Fund recently declaring underage pregnancy as a massive crisis affecting its adolescent population.

In November 2023, the agency also committed $1 billion for the next five years to support the government in immediate and comprehensive intervention.

Reacting to the data, the public health educator lamented that there are disparities in access to reproductive services, particularly affecting marginalised and underserved populations.

She stressed the need for robust adolescent and youth health policies.

Aiyedun said she hopes the federal and state governments will leverage the support of international agencies like UNICEF to achieve healthcare goals.

“Adolescent pregnancy is one of the most critical issues across Nigeria, be it in urban or rural areas. Various factors such as poverty, poor parental control, peer influence, lack of comprehensive sex education and the negative influence of social media all contribute to this crisis. Hence, addressing this problem requires a holistic approach and the provision of inclusive reproductive health education and services to adolescents,” she stated.

Aiyedun said her campaign was driven by personal experiences. adding, “As a teenager, I suffered from hygiene-related health issues due to poor sanitary conditions in our living environment, sharing just two toilets and bathrooms with over 10 families and 30 people. Though I faced recurring infections, I was forced to endure them silently because of poor financial conditions as well as my introversion.

“However, when I received adequate reproductive information and sought proper medical treatment. I realised that further delays could have led to blocked fallopian tubes or reduced fertility.

“This shocking realisation spurred me to focus on Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health and to sensitise teenagers, especially adolescent girls, on the importance of speaking out about reproductive health issues and seeking early treatment to avoid complications”.

She said an effective Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health system can also help raise awareness among parents, educators and communities about adolescent and youth-related health issues.

The expert maintained that implementing sex education campaigns and outreach programmes will help reduce stigma, prevent situations like early-age pregnancy and encourage young people to seek medical care.

“A proactive strategy by the government along with initiatives supported by the UN can create meaningful change. The federal government must allocate sufficient funds and enact policies focusing on AYRH. States should also ensure that local governments comply with these policies and work closely with the community to implement youth-focused initiatives. The whole situation can be improved through much more coordinated efforts,” she concluded.