By Angela Atabo
Abuja – Education as a Vaccine, a Non-governmental organisation, on Friday tasked government at all levels to increase their investments in health services in order to protect the youths in the country.
Ms Mauret Aimufia, Youth Advocate of Education as a Vaccine, said this at the commemoration of the International Girl-Child Day with the theme ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force’ on Friday in Abuja.
Aimufia said that these investments would afford young Nigerians the opportunity of accessing qualitative health care across the country.
“Adolescent girls and young women especially girls from poor households, living with HIV, persons with disabilities, and affected by conflict or natural disasters like floods have poor access to health care services.
“They also often face stigma and discrimination at the point of accessing services. These involves shaming, disrespect and rejection. Therefore, addressing the barriers of choices, resources and opportunities facing girls in Nigeria is needed.”
Aimufia said that available statistics showed that the number of out of school children had increased in many states and majority of them are girls.
She said that according to statistics, Nigeria had one of the highest maternal mortality ratios at 576 deaths per 100,000 live births.
She said that the statistics also showed that adolescent girls and young women accounted for more than 30 per cent due to complications from birth and unsafe abortions.
She said that to worsen the situation, contraceptive use among young people especially adolescent girls and young women was low.
She said that this was because nearly one-third of sexually active women in Nigeria aged between 15 and 24 had an unmet need for contraception.
“Additionally, the cost of accessing health care remains a serious barrier for most Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) and often results in delays in seeking out healthcare.
“This continues until the health complication becomes life-threatening.
“For some, it can lead to increased risk taking including engaging in transactional sex to obtain the financial resources necessary to meet their healthcare needs among others,’’ she said.
Aimufia said that adolescents often did not adopt positive health-seeking behaviours because of age restrictions.
She called on relevant government agencies to ensure that adolescents and young women were considered when identifying vulnerable populations that should be exempted from paying user fees at public health facilities.
“We call on all policy and decision makers to ensure that adolescents and young people have access to HIV Testing Services and also to get on treatment to make sure that those infected are not infecting more people.
“We can start by reducing the age of consent in the HIV testing services guidelines to 14 years,’’ she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the International Girl Child Day is celebrated annually to celebrate the achievement of girls, and address the challenges that hinder their growth and development.