The upsurge in the demand for contraceptives among adolescent girls following the covid-19 pandemic lockdown in Nasarawa State has been described as a major reason Nasarawa government must boost funding of sexual reproductive health services.
Programme Assistant, Adolescent A360 Project, Nasarawa State, Emmanuel Ombs in a presentation during a media round table in Lafia pointed out that the period of lockdown saw many of the adolescent girls who hitherto benefited from the Matasa Matan Arewa project unable to have physical access due to restriction in movement and ban on grouping.
In his presentation titled: Meaningful Youth Engagement in Adolescents and Young People’s Sexual Reproductive Health Services and COVID -19, Ombs said, the A360 project began operation in Nasarawa in 2018 and in two years succeeded in reaching out to 10,032 adolescents girls (mostly married) with sexual Reproductive Health and life building information and services.
He pointed out that the lockdown which brought with it, attendant challenges particularly, rise in incidence of rape had many of the girls having no access to any form of help as most of the Primary Healthcare Centres were shut.
In the same period, Ombs noted, about 7,537 sexually active girls adopted one contraceptive method of family planning and 525 of the adopters returned to the A360 facility for continuity of the chosen method.
Although Ombs observed that 1,106 girls did not adopt a contraceptive probably because they do not have a need however, 101 of the girls tested positive for pregnancy while over 500 of the girls were treated for sexually transmitted infections, indicating that government’s intervention in funding reproductive health is highly necessary.
He further explained that in order to respond to the demand from the girls during the covid-19 lockdown, the programme had to do online follow ups and referrals for the girls.
According to him, some of the online services provided to the girls include: Love Life Health’ class using the WhatsApp platform to provide an alternative forum to continue to establish relationship with the girls, while making contraception relevant to the girls’ need available on demand.
“9ja girls Facebook page provided continued conversation with girls and continued support to girls around their life plans as well as their Sexual Reproductive Health journey.
Ombs explained that all the activities of the A360 underscore why Nasarawa government must fund Reproductive Health Services in the state.
According to him, government must with immediate effect Increase its focus funding and response to the Adolescents and Young People Sexual Reproductive Health issues with special attention to Gender Based Violence, Teenage Pregnancy, need for contraception among others’
Government must also ensure the availability of contraceptives throughout the state while it must commit to domestication of the various adaptations shown by the MMA program to keep meeting the SRH needs of adolescents and women of reproductive age within the state.
In her presentation titled: “Impact of Covid-19 on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health in Nasarawa State” the State Reproductive Health Coordinator, Salome V. Aya pointed out that the lack of budget line for Adolescent sexual and Reproductive Health in the State played out in the poor response during the covid-19 lockdown.
According to her, “There is no budget line for Adolescents and Youths Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (ASYRH) in the state ministry of health budget which plays out in how public health providers show biases towards the needs of adolescents when they visit the facilities for services as well as inability to adequately respond to their needs during the lock down.
She noted that the State does not have sufficient health workers trained on Adolescents and Youths Reproductive Health needs and would need to domesticate policies on adolescents and youths’ reproductive health for inclusion.
Also speaking The State Director of Health and Incident Manager, Covid-19 Emergency Operations Centre, Dr. Ibrahim Adamu Alhassan who represented the State Commissioner, Pharmacist Ahmend Yahaya, noted that some of the challenges encountered during the period of lockdown included: Denial of the existence of the disease by the populace, stigma, resource constraints to meet with provision of Personal Protective Equipment, rise in sexual violence due to lockdown, lull in other sector of life affecting economic lives of the people, reduction in farm yield due to restriction of movements and lack of a testing site in the public sector of the state.
He said the state is mobilizing more resources to commence testing among civil servants as well as expand access to more test sites in the state.
A360 Young Designer, Synderila Bulus speaking on: Reaching Adolescent and Young persons with essential life building skills and SRH services in COVID-19: Rapid adaptations to ensure Adolescents and Young Persons are empowered to achieve their Future Dreams” explained that the various adaptation modules worked to keep some of the girls busy and actively engaged during the lock down.
According to her, “By this, we have been able to avert over 2,000 unplanned pregnancies and syndromically managed over 300 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) cases from March till August, 2020:.