Joint Press Release on the International Day of the Girl Child
For Immediate Release:
11th of October, 2018
At: Valencia Hotel, Wuse 2, Abuja
A Skilled Girl Force: We must improve her access to Health to maximise her Potential
The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is ‘With Her: a Skilled Girl Force’. 11th of October is an important day to celebrate the achievement of Nigerian girls and address the challenges that hinder their growth and development, in particular, their health.
Adolescent girls and young women, especially girls from poor households, living with HIV, living with disabilities, and/or affected by conflict or natural disasters like floods have poor access to health care services that can improve the quality of their lives. And they often face stigma and discrimination at the point of accessing services that involve shaming, disrespect and rejection. Addressing the barriers of choices, resources and opportunities facing girls in Nigeria is needed. As young people, we call on the government to invest in our health and education. Available statistics show that the number of out of school children has increased and in many states, a majority of them are girls. Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios at 576 deaths per 100,000 live births and adolescent girls and young women account for more than 30% due to complications from birth and unsafe abortions. To worsen the situation, contraceptive use among Adolescents and Young People (AYP) especially Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) is low, as nearly one-third of sexually active women in Nigeria aged 15-24 has an unmet need for contraception.
The poor youth-friendliness in healthcare facilities and attitude of healthcare workers across Nigeria make access to services difficult and unattractive for AYP. Additionally, the cost of accessing health care remains a serious barrier for most AGYW and often results in delays in seeking out healthcare until the health complication becomes life-threatening. For some, it can lead to increased risk taking including engaging in transactional sex to obtain the financial resources necessary to meet their healthcare needs amongst others.
To ensure AYP, especially AGYW who are most at risk of HIV and other STIs can receive positive, appropriate care and services at all healthcare facilities, guidelines that can remove age as a barrier to testing and treatment should be implemented. AYP often do not adopt positive health-seeking behaviours because of age restrictions.
In recent times, there has been increasing advocacy and focus on the provision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as the most acceptable approach governments at national and sub-national levels in Nigeria can employ to ensure good health is realized for all and through it contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, Goal 3. However, even though AYP, in particular, AGYW’s SRH concerns are included in policies, implementation and financial investment are what we now need.
Meeting AYP, especially AGYW’s SRH needs in Nigeria that ensures that they remain healthy and able to improve their skills to contribute to the improvement of the socio-economic situation of their families is not just government’s responsibility. For us to get it right for our AYP, especially AGYW, all stakeholders are urged to ensure that a proper framework and foundation is drafted and laid for them right from the stage of pre-adolescence.
We call on all stakeholders to embrace the Family Life and HIV Education (FLHE) Curriculum. Specifically, we call on government at all levels to initiate and implement programs that will ensure that teachers and youth-friendly/healthcare service providers are trained on the Curriculum and supported to implement it. In so doing, AGYW’s awareness of their SRH will improve their sexual and reproductive health and general well-being.
We urge all relevant government agencies to ensure that AGYW are given serious consideration when identifying vulnerable populations that should be exempted from paying user fees at public health facilities. Health financing schemes and programs like NHIS and Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and others that are geared towards achieving UHC should include a spectrum of SRH services including family planning targeting AYP.
We call on all policy and decision makers to ensure that AYP have access to HIV Testing Services (HTS) and also to get on treatment to make sure that those infected are not infecting more AYP. We can start by reducing the age of consent in the HTS Guidelines to 14 years.
(EVA, APYIN and ASHWAN are partners in the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV Response (PITCH) AGYW Project). The project focuses on addressing issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for Adolescent Girls and Young Women Living with HIV/AIDS)
Team Lead, Advocacy and Policy Influencing, (EVA)
Phone Number: 08037847845