By Ikenna Osuoha
Stakeholders across the country on Tuesday unite on the need to invest resources to improve the healthcare of adolescents aimed at achieving Demographic Dividends (DD).
They took the decision at a news conference on the first African and second Nigerian conference on Adolescent Health and Development 2021 in Abuja that Africa had one of the highest number of Adolescents in the world which made investment in them imperative.
Prof. Adesegun Fatusi, the President of Society for Adolescents and Young People’s Health in Nigeria (SAYPHIN),who described investment in young people as “a triple investment”, added that “Africa has the largest proportion of young people that are between the ages of 10 and 24.
“The continent has the highest number of adolescents in the world with the highest number of deaths of young people which makes investing in their health compelling.”
Fatusi, who called for optimisation of health responses to the large adolescent population, said it was necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He identified communicable diseases, maternal mortality as major challenges confronting African adolescents.
Ms Ene Okpe of Stand With A Girl (SWAG), an NGO, said that the lack of autonomy and inability of parents to give the adolescents a sense of belonging was one huge challenge affecting young people.
Okpe added that “about 1.1 million young people die annually as a result of depression, occasioned by some avoidable factors, dragging them into unhealthy comparisons with peers by parents.
“Adolescents need confidentiality from parents. A lot of them go into depression and drugs and mental issues as a result of depression.”
Dr Amina Dorayi, the Country Director, Pathfinder International, emphasised the need to meet the needs of young people by investing in them.
Dorayi described young people as “reservoirs of talent that required the support of both government and different organisations to harness their potential and live life to the fullest.”
She said Pathfinder International, in collaboration with partners were working to improve the health and wellbeing of adolescents by giving them access to Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights (SRHR).
Mr Osaretin Andorin of UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that the UN had a 2030 Development Strategy for young people aimed at ensuring that the potential of every young person was achieved.
He said “if the world must change, the energy and knowledge of young people must be harnessed.”
He stressed the need to invest in the healthcare of young people to ensure a healthy and enterprising future.
Andorin called for all-round investment, including autonomy to achieve Demographic Dividends through education and job creation.
Dr Chris Ugboko of the Federal Ministry of Health, said the ministry, in line with the National Health Development Programme, built Adolescent Friendly Centres in Edo and Katsina states.
“The centres are places where adolescents can feel free to access promotive and preventive health services.”
Dr Adesola Olumide, the Secretary, Society for Adolescents and Young People’s Health in Nigeria (SAYPHIN), restated the commitment of the society in providing technical support to Federal Government in improving the healthcare of adolescents.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the purpose of the news conference with the theme: “Fulfilling Promises: Optimising Investment in Adolescent Health in Africa”, was to discuss the state of adolescents health and development in Africa and in