A health expert, Adesegun Fatusi, has said Nigeria must invest adequately in adolescent health towards achieving sustainable development.
Mr Fatusi, who is the national president of the Society for Adolescent and Young People’s Health in Nigeria (SAYPHIN), said Nigeria and, indeed, Africa, has the fastest rate of growth of adolescents in the world.
He spoke on Wednesday at a briefing as part of activities to mark the 1st African and 2nd Nigeria conference on adolescent health and development scheduled to hold on August 19.
He said: “Unfortunately, Africa contributes the highest proportion of deaths among young people globally. Approximately 5,000 young people die every day and that is almost 1.5 million people across the world every year and they die likely from preventable causes.
“Unfortunately the response to adolescents’ health is weakest in Africa and the responses have not been optimised. And we do know that without optimising our investment in the life of young people, there is no way we can grow our economy.
“There is no way we can ensure sustainable development for the future without investing in this aspect of health.”
According to the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF), about 1.2 billion people in the world are adolescents and about 1.2 million adolescents die each year mostly from preventable causes.
The international agency said many adolescents lack access to the essential information, quality services, and protective environments they need to stay healthy and well.
It also said an estimated 23 million adolescent girls become pregnant every year. This in turn leads to maternal mortality, majorly linked to child marriage as a leading cause of deaths for girls aged 15-19.
A representative of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Chris Ugboko, said the ministry has a national strategic health development plan.
“This plan has five pillars which includes 15 priority areas, and the fourth priority area is where adolescent health issues belong.
“One of the responsibilities under that priority area is for the development of frameworks which will be used to look at the development and sexual health of adolescents,” he said.
Mr Ugboko said the federal government carried out a national assessment of the needs of adolescents across the country, and that the information retrieved guided the development of the nation’s adolescent health policy.
“Since then we have tried to make this policy count and we are making sure it’s implemented,” he added.
He also said collaborations are ongoing between partners and the local governments where cases of adolescent health are mostly found.
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