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Nigeria's First National Conference on Adolescent Health: Implications
24. May 2019 at 00:28
History was made, in April, 2019, specifically 11th to 13th - Nigeria had her first national conference on adolescent health, courtesy of the Society for Adolescents and Young People`s Health in Nigeria. This in no doubts has set up a new rhythm for adolescent health and development in Nigeria which hitherto had yet to receive the attention that it deserved from stakeholders in Nigeria. Indeed, we can now say we are on the road to progress.
History was made, in April, 2019, specifically 11th to 13th - Nigeria had her first national conference on adolescent health, courtesy of the Society for Adolescents and Young People`s Health in Nigeria (SAPHIN – www.sayphin.org). The event tagged “Leaving No Young Person Behind: Advancing Adolescent Health in Nigeria in the SDG Era” was graced by the Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, The governor of Oyo state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi , The Global President, International Association for Adolescent Health, Prof Susan Sawyer, University students, Non-profit and School Owners, Academics, delegates from UNFPA, WHO, as well as Government Officials from other parts of Africa and the world at large.

 

This in no doubts has set up a new rhythm for adolescent health and development in Nigeria which hitherto had yet to receive the attention that it deserved from stakeholders in Nigeria. This current synergy will help tackle Nigeria`s behemoth adolescent health challenges through increase in adolescent health – based academic research activity in Nigerian tertiary institutions. This will facilitate consistent availability of data on Adolescent Development. For example, there are no authoritative figures on the uptake of HIV drugs in the early and late adolescent HIV positives across the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria. This will help tackle this deficit as well as encourage budding health professionals to enroll for postgraduate programs in Adolescent Development.

This confluence will also aid in proliferation of adolescent driven non-profits. I remember while seated in the Subomi Hall (Unibadan) – where the conference held, a friend of mine “Chidinma Oriaku” was contemplating what area of non-profit she would venture into. Right at the event, she made up her mind to plunge into Childhood and Adolescent Nutrition. This is an instance of how such a timely meet-up can lead to proliferation of adolescent-driven non-profits.

Whether we accept it or not, this development has raised the bar on discuss around adolescent health in Nigeria. Now we can begin to expect “adolescent health”-centric conversations to make its way into our media spaces; the conventional radio, TV and the new media (online) space. These conversations will lead to more civic awareness about existing policies on adolescent development in Nigeria like Child Rights` Act (2003), The Compulsory Free Basic Education (2004), National Family Planning Communication Plan (2017 -2020) and several others, ultimately leading to the optimization of such policies and making room for formulation of more.

There is no doubt that our Primary Health Care (PHC) centers are our best bet with regards to adolescent friendly services. However, there has been low patronage of these services by adolescents, given the lack of skill in the average PHC worker on “how to engage them and make them keep coming”. Many PHC workers do not see this as a problem. This historic event with recorded attendance of PHC officials has provided a platform to strengthen the inclusion of PHCs in Nigeria on adolescent wellbeing and development. Consequently, it will be easier to get more PHC workers to commit to adolescent welfare via awareness outreaches, and policy strengthening.

On funding, the country is yet to attain the stipulation of the “Abuja Declaration (2001)” that states that at least 15% of yearly national budget should be allocated to the Health sector. The current 2019 national budget has allocated 4.1% to the Health Sector, part of which is the Adolescent Health Development subsector. This convocation will help push the need for more budgetary allocation, so Nigerian adolescents who constitute 43% of the nation’s population, can benefit tangibly from such funding. Stressing this need, the National President (SAYPHIN), Prof Adesegun Fatusi said “…It`s a disaster when states have no program, simply because there are no funders…”. He further emphasized the need for stakeholders in adolescent development to come together to access more funding, so more impacts can be made in this age group in Nigeria.     

According to a World Health Organization research published by “Spectator Index” which ranked suicide per 100,000, Nigeria placed fifth of all countries in the world with 15,000 suicides in 100,000 suicides. The recent wave of teenage suicide reports in the news again underscores why this age group deserves our undaunted attention. The Guardian on Tuesday, 21st May, 2019, reported the suicide account of 17-year old “Tope Saka” who died after ingesting poison. It was gathered that the victim had been ejected from the house by her grandma after discovering she was pregnant for her boyfriend.                                                                                        

Suicide has been implicated as the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA (CDC, 2019).                                  

Unfortunately, a drought of data in Nigeria makes the challenge more complicated, making the need to arrest this rising burden very urgent.                                                       

What a perfect time to have held such national dialogue on the way forward in adolescent wellbeing. Indeed, we can now say we are on the road to progress.

However, we still have a very large distance to cover.

We can`t rest now!


Cite This Article As: Victor Oyelade. "Nigeria's First National Conference on Adolescent Health: Implications." International Youth Journal, 24. May 2019.

Link To Article: https://youth-journal.org/nigerias-first-national-conference-on-adolescent-health-im





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