Media Advocacy Group Road Trip: Poverty Blamed for the Rate of Sexual Activity Among Youths and Adolescents

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By Ijeoma Umeh

May 19, 2021, members of the Media Advocacy Group, at the instance of The Challenge Initiative, TCI, embarked on a road trip to two public-owned healthcare facilities in Benin City to ascertain the progress of uptake of family and life planning services in the Primary Healthcare Centres, PHC.

At the Obstetrics and Gynaecology unit of the Central Hospital, Benin City, Mrs Sede Bamidele, Director of Nursing Services, received the media group, and fielded questions on Sexual and Reproductive Health, SRH services.

On the uptake of services, she stated that at no other time than at this moment of economic instability are members of the public more interested in planning their families while the zeal by youths and adolescents to plan their sexual lives are equally being heightened.

“People are now using all the services more than ever before. All the methods, hormonal, mechanical and surgical are being used.

Oral pills, IUDs, injectable, implant, condoms, etc.

Our duty here is to counsel them on the methods that best suits them and guide them in adopting such methods. “
Addressing the group on the use of commodities by sexually active Youths and Adolescents, Mrs Bamidele noted that partners in reproductive health campaign, like the Connected Advocacy help in the sensitization of youths and adolescents and in making referrals while healthcare providers guide on the proper use of commodities.

She stated that youths between age 15 and 24 years are referred to the PHC and they are counselled on the advantages and disadvantages of available Life Planning methods.

On the availability of commodities, the Director stated that commodities are readily available but that paucity of consumables still remains a major challenge in service delivery, and that fund is often generated for consumables.

She emphasised on the merits of family planning and effect of population on the economic growth of both families and nation, and enjoined couples to have the number of children they can adequately cater for while adopting child spacing as family planning method.

At the Oko PHC, Iyekogba Ward 2, Nurse Omorere Adesuwa, Chief Nursing Officer and Officer in Charge of the Centre stated that it has been smooth sailing for FP and LPAY services.

“We chant the need for family planning when mothers come for post-natal care. We sing child spacing even when husbands come with their wives. For the sexually active youths, we sensitize them on abstinence, but when they insist we counsel them on the available life planning methods, injectable, oral pills, implants, etc. Condom is regular because of its dual purpose as a planning method as well as its effective role in the prevention of STDs.”

She also commended key partners in advocacy, stating that CBOs have been quite helpful in community outreaches and sensitization.

“One of the CBOs, Niger Girls, has been helpful. Its primary focus is targeting sexually active girls aged 15-24 around the community and advocating for safe sex. They make referrals and we take it up from there.”

Mrs Omorere bemoaned the effect of poverty on the rate of sexual activity among youths and adolescents and cautioned on the use of abortion as a life planning method.

“Abortion is not yet legalized in our country, as such, we do not encourage it here. Abortion is risky, it is a blind procedure, and it could become septic if not properly done. While we don’t procure abortion here, we, however, administer Post Abortion Care (PAC) when we get the referrals. Poverty and the craving for modern communication gadgets and other ephemeral goods are culprits in the rate of sexual activity among youths. We all have a role to play in mitigating this development. “

On training and retraining of key personnel, she noted that the outward disposition of help personnel could make the services poor, so training and retraining are vital in service delivery.

“In this job, it is important to be friendly and show understanding as caring personnel. It’s possible you may handover duty to an untrained caregiver who may not handle these young persons properly and they will resort to unsafe methods in planning their lives. So, continuity in service delivery follows adequate training for all personnel.

Confidentiality is key. If these young adolescents know they could confide in you, they will take your advocacy calmly. Yes, they may present with pregnancy, but it is our duty to make them understand that pregnancy is not the end of the road for them in planning their future. We counsel them, oftentimes get across to their families and guide them on the actions that will be helpful in actualising their potentials and attaining the future of their dream.”

With regard to challenges in service delivery, the officer in charge also stated: “Commodities are available, but we buy our consumables ourselves.”

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