With a global population of approximately 1.8 billion adolescents and young people, and Nigeria accounting for over 90 million of them in its population of over 200 million, the health of adolescents has been at the forefront for years. Despite the efforts of civil society organizations to develop programs focused on adolescent health and to urge the government to prioritize it, Nigeria and other countries still struggle to meet the health needs of their ever-growing adolescent and young populations.
Access to healthcare, including mental, physical, sexual, and reproductive health, remains limited for many adolescents and young people, especially in Nigeria. Negative provider attitudes are among the leading causes of adolescent apathy toward reproductive health services, making the provision and access to youth-friendly physical health a significant call to relevant stakeholders. Although Nigeria has robust health policies for adolescents and young people, implementing some of these policies remains challenging, hindering access to health care services.
Annually in commemoration of the International health week to raise global awareness about adolescent health and well-being particularly highlighting the importance of investing in adolescent health to attain the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.This year 2023, International Adolescent Health Week was themed “With and For Adolescents: Building a Healthier and More Inclusive Future.”
In Nigeria, the Week kicked off with a sensitization campaign in religious institutions and was followed by a ministerial press briefing by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire. During the press briefing, the minister noted the various ways in which the government has been addressing adolescent health and development needs in the country. Issues raised by civil society organizations and adolescents, for which the ministry recommitted to advancing, were WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) programs, especially for girls in both rural and urban settings, mental health of adolescents, and implementation of the FLHE.
Healthy adolescents are the future, and it is crucial to prioritize their health and well-being.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Provide access to youth-friendly physical health services.
- Provide access to mental health services.
- Promote positive social environments that ensure safe and supportive relationships.
- Prioritize education and empowerment for adolescents, especially girls
- Protect them from exploitation and abuse.
- Provide rights-based, age-appropriate education for health and well-being in and out of schools.
- Invest in studies, research, and data collection related to adolescent health and well-being.
As we commemorate the International Adolescent Health Week, we call on the government, policy makers including service providers to reaffirm their commitments to ensure that adolescents and young people have access to Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
By taking these urgent and essential actions, we can create a world where all adolescents and young people have the knowledge, resources, and support to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. Together, let us uphold their rights, break down barriers, and ensure that no young person is left behind.