Teenage Pregnancy in Nigeria: Implication for policy
11. December 2018 at 09:04
According to a 2013 report by Demographic and Health Survey, in Nigeria an estimated 23% of women aged 15-19 years have begun child bearing, of which 17% have had their first child and 5% are pregnant with their first child.10% of teenagers in Nigerian urban areas have begun childbearing and 32% in the rural areas. Even, our urban areas are no longer safe from the shackles of Teenage Pregnancy. These figures have jumped in recent times due to factors like increased rape due to poor legislation, poor knowledge on contraceptive use, Lack of parental care in the family, polygamous family system, high rate of illiteracy and child marriage, to mention a few.
Funmilayo is the typical, prospective and promising 15 year old teenage girl raised somewhere in the Oluyole local gov`t area of Ibadan, in the South Western part of Nigeria until the worst happened! She was with child, a young barman in the street was the culprit. Her education was compromised, the culprit himself needed material assistance, raising a family was out of the equation. Funmilayo had to drop her baby with her immediate family in care of her mum as she had to escape to Lagos in search of greener pastures. The baby against its will has been subjected to lack of ideal parental care.
As at 2016, Teenage Pregnancy has been defined by WHO as pregnancy that occurs between the maternal ages of 14 and 19 years. Sadly, Africa has the highest prevalence rate of teenage pregnancy in the world with 143 per 1,000 births (aged 15-19) with Nigeria been a chief culprit. What makes this whole panorama a concern are the consequences attached to the increasing burden of teenage pregnancy : high blood pressure, vesico-vaginal fistula, obstructed labor in mother, poverty, negative coping in mothers like substance use and many more.
This rising phenomenon calls for an urgent policy review across all strata to fill all loop holes in policies addressing teenage pregnancy in Nigeria. The “National Health Policy (1995)” accommodates teenagers` access to health services in Nigerian primary health centers, however, “Parental consent” isn`t addressed, so the health service provider can choose not to attend to a teenager due to bias. In view of this, new policies should stress the need for parental consent as well as the limits.
Again, the “National Sexuality Education Curriculum (2000)” mandates Sexuality/HIV education to upper primary and junior secondary schools but implementation is based on state adoption and inconsistent. Policy statements should affirm the supremacy of Federal laws over State laws and implementations should be more orderly. Similarly, the “Child Rights` Act (2003)” has been plagued by Nigeria`s Pluralistic Legal System, where some states are allowed to operate via Sharia law, at the expense of Federal laws. As it has been stated earlier, Policy statements should affirm the supremacy of Federal laws over State laws.
The “National Reproductive Health Policy and Strategy (2001)” which should drive reproductive wellbeing is to be reviewed every 5 years. However, this has been a sorry business, the policy has been marred by inconsistent review. Such Policies as this should be more short term oriented with a definite start and end review dates. Also, the “Compulsory Free Basic Education Act (2004)” Program is free but parents who survive below the poverty line still pay for uniforms, books and some other “off the books” payments which discourages rural-based parents. The Free Basic Education should be more holistic in scholarship to help more teenage girls go to school.
In the “National Youth Policy (2001, 2009)”, a guiding policy for youth development (for ages18-35), there is poor dissemination of its content to lower societal levels. Policy statement should make provision for adequate disseminations of content to lower societal levels, especially rural settlements. The “National Family Planning Communication Plan (2017 – 2020)” has achieved some feat in the older population however, the policy statement is too general in approach and silent on teenage girls. Fixing these policy loop holes will help promising teenagers like Funmilayo, escape the destructive pangs and consequence of Teenage pregnancy. It will also reduce the burden of poverty on the nation, paving the way for more prosperous and healthier future generations.
There is work to do!