The Kaduna State Government has been urged to scale up, prioritise and protect adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health and services in the state in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state and in Nigeria at large.
Experts who spoke during a media roundtable organised by the Kaduna State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, KSPHCB, in collaboration with the Kaduna State COVID-19 Task Force with strategic support from the Society for Family Health, SFH, said the menace of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion could be effectively checked through the enabling of financial empowerment of adolescent girls.
Making the call, the Northern Regional Coordinator, Society for Family Health Adolescent 360 Project, A360, Mrs. Anita Elabor, said the move was necessary as part of an effective a strategy to curb the unsafe abortions from unintended pregnancies and other challenges facing adolescent girls in the wake of the pandemic.
In her presentation entitled “Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs and Challenges Today in the Era of COVID-19”, Elabor stated: “We call on the State Government to scale up and prioritise protecting and improving Adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health. This will mitigate some of the barriers they face on their journeys, and empower them to work towards the futures they envision.”
Noting that the plight of the adolescent girl today is enormous, she stated: “Unintended pregnancies often end the dreams and goals of most girls. When a girl gives birth, she often drops out of school, doesn’t receive support from the baby’s father and his family, and may be kicked out by her parents. The Plight of the adolescent girl today is enormous.”
The State Commissioner for Health, Mrs. Amina Baloni, who argued that the numerous reproductive health challenges encountered by adolescents was as a result of lack of economic opportunities and support from their parents, also advocated for economic empowerment of the girls.
Baloni who was represented by Dr Mohammed Bello Armiyau, argued that the economic gap was responsible for the inability of adolescent girls to obtain higher education, making them unable to fend for themselves and often vulnerable to advances from men.
She argued that without economic opportunities or support from parents, adolescent girls are often under pressure to depend on men for financial support and gifts in exchange for sex, noting that after secondary school, the path to higher education or jobs was dime for girls unable to fend for themselves making them even more vulnerable to undue advances from men.
Speaking on the Adolescent SRH status in Kaduna State, the Adolescent Health Desk Officer in KSPHCDA, Mrs Jemimah Menyuwah, said as part of the measures to ensure access to modern contraceptives as well as appropriate sexual reproductive health services by adolescent girls aged 15-19 years, the Kaduna State Primary Health Care Board, KSPHCB, had scaled up the A360 Matasan Matan Arewa, MMA, model emanating from achievements of A360 project by SFH.
According to her: “The programme was scaled up in the last quarter of 2019 and is currently going on in Kakuri Gwari and Makera communities of Kaduna south LGA; Daddu and Sabon Garin Chori communities of Jaba LGA and Kurmi Kogi and Ikara communities of Ikara LGA in the state.
“MMA creates strengthened, integrated health and community support systems capable of working together to make sexual and reproductive health services relevant and accessible to the married adolescent-empowering her to achieve her goals, contribute to her family income and raise healthy children”
Menyuwah said among the lessons leant during the pilot was discovered that both married and unmarried adolescent girls have unmet needs for contraceptives.
“The MMA session give the adolescent girls opportunity to negotiate contraceptive methods with their husbands, provided one-on-one private counselling to help to uncover vulnerabilities of adolescent girls and also to engage husbands of adolescent girls while the male engagements gives the couple room for effective communication leading to peaceful coexistence through strengthening their married life.
She said due to COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, data for the second quarter on child spacing dropped while among other challenges, there was massive transfer of facility trained providers.
“During mobilisation some of the husbands collect the referral cards and will not allow their wives to the facility. There was inadequate monthly supportive supervisions, mentoring and coaching, and inadequate reach out events to the three LGAs and in six communities.”
Describing Kaduna State as a model for learning visit due to the achievements on the A360 project, she said through the vocational skill acquisitions, the state reached 127 out of 1710 young married adolescents mentees even as mobilisation of adolescent girls age 15-19 years and husbands of married adolescent girls for wider coverage were intensified.