The Cross River Government says plans are ongoing to develop a state specific policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
The State Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, disclosed this in Calabar on Wednesday during a stakeholders meeting on the Domestication of Cross River SRHR Policy.
The meeting was organised by the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP) and Sustaining Evidence Driven Advocacy (SEDA).
Edu said the state needed to come up with a policy that would fit into the lifestyles of its people, especially the youth.
The commissioner, represented by Mrs Lucy Enakirerhi, the state coordinator on Family Planning, said the policy would help the youth to make the right decisions on sexual and reproductive health rights.
According to her, young people are not supposed to be offered reproductive health services in the same environment with the adults because of their peculiarities.
“A lot still needs to be done in the area of awareness, especially in the rural areas because parents need to understand the peculiarities of the youths, especially when it comes to sexual matters.
“We have been organising group discussions, town hall meetings and other sensitisation programmes at the rural level because we need to equip our youths with adequate, unbiased information on the consequences of engaging in sexual activities.
“We have been implementing the National Reproductive Health Policy since it was inaugurated in 2018, but now we want to come out with a state specific policy by domesticating the national policy and looking into the peculiarities of our state.
Also speaking, Dr Janet Ekpenyong, the Director- General, Cross River Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCDA) said having a policy on sexual and reproductive health issues in the state was a step in the right direction
Ekpenyong was represented by Mrs Elizabeth Unawu, Desk Officer Family Planning, CRSPHCDA.
Ekpenyong said their clients had been accessing SRHR services in the various primary health facilities in the state but statistics showed that youths rarely came forward to access the services.
“We are still working on advocacy to curb barriers to SRHR services for the youth because most times, it is the attitude of the health workers that drive the youth away from our centres,’’ she noted.
In her remarks, Miss Goodness Odey, Advocacy Associate, IYAFP, maintained that as young people, they had observed a gap in young people assessing SRHR services in Cross River.
Odey added that the key way of bridging the gap was having a policy that clearly suits the realities of Cross River owned by the people and states the rights of the youth in accessing this care.
“Although, the major work in the domestication process would be done by the State Ministry of Health, IYAF and many other relevant agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) would be supporting.
“The Empowering Evidence Driven Advocacy (EEDA) carried out the 2019 research in Abuja, Anambra and Cross River.
“The research findings revealed that primary healthcare providers lacked capacity in youth friendly service provision, so we are trying to involve them more and build their capacity.’’
Mr Ukeme Ekeng, Chairperson, Network to Curb Sexual Abuse Among Girls and Women in Cross River, advised the government to look beyond just having a policy on SRHR but carryout proper health financing.
“Until we get to that point of properly financing and implementing our health plans, we might just be heading for another policy that will be a piece of architecture on our shelves,’’ she said. (NAN)