Serious barriers prevents adolescents from accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services safely & confidentially

Serious barriers prevents adolescents from accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services safely & confidentially

HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 13, 2018/ — In Zimbabwe, a host of barriers are preventing adolescents, defined as aged 10 to 19 years, from accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services safely and confidentially without the consent of their parents.

Without free and informative access to health services that include contraceptives, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and condoms, national studies show that rates of adolescent pregnancy and HIV are increasing, while knowledge levels around sexual health are declining. One study revealed that Zimbabwe has the highest teenage fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa with one in every 10 girls aged between 15 and 19 years falling pregnant every year.

Culturally, young people are often expected to abstain from sex until they get married. National law states that young people below the age of 16 years can’t take an HIV test without parental consent, and health workers often stigmatize young people seeking sexual health advice.

Yet in many communities like Mbare, a sprawling high-density suburb in the capital Harare, the reality is that young people start having sex and experimenting as early as 12 years, frequently without protection or information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STIs and HIV infection.

Young people living with HIV also face particular difficulties, especially if they only learn of their HIV status by accident in their teens. Most find it difficult to accept their condition, and often stop taking their antiretroviral treatment (ART). Crowded living conditions which force young people out of their homes and abuse of alcohol and drugs also plays havoc with staying on regular treatment.

Recognizing the huge vulnerability of adolescents without access to free sexual and reproductive health services, MSF partnered with the Harare City health department to start an ‘adolescent-friendly corner’ at Edith Opperman clinic in Mbare. Staff in the brightly coloured rooms offer free services which include general health check-ups, HIV testing and counselling, screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and contraceptive services.

In between appointments, young visitors can play pool or chat with ‘peer educators’, themselves young people, who MSF has trained and mentored to discuss sexual health issues with their peers or encourage them to stick to their treatment.

In 2017, 2454 consultations were provided for young people in the ‘adolescent corner’.

Canada partners with UNICEF to improve reproductive health and nutrition among adolescent girls in Ethiopia

Canada partners with UNICEF to improve reproductive health and nutrition among adolescent girls in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 9, 2018/ — On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Government of Canada is pleased to provide CDN$ 14.8 million (US$ 12 million) to UNICEF Ethiopia to improve the reproductive health and nutritional status of adolescent girls. The initiative will reach over four million girls in districts with high food insecurity and a high prevalence of child marriage. It will be implemented between 2018 and 2022.

“As part of our feminist approach, Canada is committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to empower women and adolescent girls in Ethiopia and around the world,” says Ivan Roberts, Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Canada in Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, 25 per cent of the population is made up of adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years), of which 11 million are girls. Adolescent girls experience numerous barriers that hinder them from fully realizing their potential. A significant portion of these barriers is related to their sexual and reproductive health and to their nutrition.

Canada’s contribution will help girls access adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and nutrition facilities by training health workers to clearly understand the physiological and psychological needs of adolescent girls. This initiative will also leverage gender clubs in schools to provide life skills and sexual and reproductive health knowledge to young people. In addition, adolescent-friendly spaces will be created to ensure out-of-school children freely discuss nutrition and sexual and reproductive health issues and practices including family planning.

To improve personal hygiene, the programme will support the local production and supply of sanitary pads, education of girls on pre- and post menstruation, improve sanitary facilities through upgrading and rehabilitation, provide spaces in schools for menstruating girls to rest, enhance counselling and peer-to-peer support, and promote informal discussions among girls on issues that concern them.

“We appreciate the timely support from the Government of Canada which will allow us to address the challenges that Ethiopian adolescent girls face today,” says Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “We believe that this contribution will help adolescent girls break out of discriminatory social and gender norms that hamper their education and hinder their ability to meaningfully contribute to their nation’s development.”

UNICEF will use its strong monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure the success of this programme and invest in regular compilation of health and nutrition data to better understand trends and uptake of services by adolescent girls.