Today, WHARC launches a new campaign – Red Hot Issue – with a plea for the urgent implementation of youth-friendly health services across Nigeria.
Currently, young people don’t have access to appropriate health services, especially reproductive health information and services. This leads to high numbers of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and one of the world’s highest risks of dying in childbirth.
The campaign features a video highlighting this urgent need and enables people to show their support through voting on the campaign website. WHARC aims to gather support from 100,000 Nigerians by December 1, when they will hand an appeal to the Government of Nigeria.
“We must make sure that adolescents and young adults have access to life-saving reproductive and sexual health information as well as services”, says Professor Friday Okonofua, Executive Director of WHARC. “Policies exist, but what we need is the implementation of these, so actual good quality services that will protect the health and well-being of Nigeria’s youth – our country’s future.”
Therefore, WHARC has launched the campaign Red Hot Issue advocacy campaign to bring attention to the following grave facts.
- Each year, 60 000 Nigerian women die due to pregnancy-related complications,
half of whom are under 20 years old.
- Nearly 50% of young Nigerian women are pregnant by the time they turn 20.
- About a third of adolescent girls are sexually active by 15 years of age and half by 18.
- Both access to and the understanding of contraceptives among young people is limited.
- Many young pregnant women resort to unsafe abortions.
- Only 4% of young people have tested for HIV.
Women’s Research and Action Centre WHARC is a pioneering adolescent’ health research group and advocate for policies and services that will enhance the health and improve the status of women and adolescents in Nigeria.
Background information for media
WHARC has been researching adolescent sexual health and rights in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa for over 20 years. Our findings indicate that amongst other:
- Fear of parents, especially the perception that treatment-seeking could lead to parental notification and consequent reprisals, is a major barrier to adolescent care-seeking
- Adult caregivers either fail to discuss matters of sexuality with wards, or young people prefer not to discuss such issues with adult caregivers. Cultural norms may prevent sexual and reproductive health matters from being discussed publicly and the discussion of sexual matters with children is often characterized by feelings of embarrassment
- Both access to and the understanding of contraceptives among young people is limited. As Nigeria faces a serious threat of an escalating HIV/AIDS epidemic and increasing incidence of STDs among adolescents, there is a need for a more pragmatic and liberal official attitude towards promotion of modern contraceptives use.
- Targeting reproductive health programs at in-school adolescents can be expected to be effective in reaching a high proportion of adolescents. Furthermore, education is a very potent social determinant of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. More educated youth tend to become sexually active older, have a higher likelihood of using family planning methods and tend to marry older.