World Health Day: Nigerian youths call for action to improve adolescents’ health

 Youth leaders and civil society groups in Nigeria have urged the government to invest in equity-enhancing strategies to restore crumbling services for women, newborns, children and adolescents.

The Executive Director of the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr Aminu Magashi, said this in Abuja on Tuesday to commemorate the 2021 World Health Day.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the World Health Day is being commemorated globally on April 7, under the theme “Together for a fairer, healthier world”.

On this occasion, the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for urgent action to eliminate health inequities and mobilise action to attain better health for all and leave no one behind.

Magashi said that this year’s celebration was being held at the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which continued to threaten the improvement in health and social services.

“The theme for this year’s World Health Day focusing on ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’ reminds us of a need to invest in equity-enhancing strategies to address the needs of the most vulnerable.   

“COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities, putting at risk hard won gains that have been made over the past decade,” says Helga Fogstad, Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH)

“Ensuring that women, children and adolescents are protected from the disproportionate indirect social and economic challenges of the pandemic and associated financial crisis will require action from all stakeholders,” adds Fogstad.

He disclosed that Nigeria was among 10 countries that recently heeded the call, and recently made major commitments to prioritise investments for the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.

“The West African nation has pledged $2.3 billion during 2020-2028 for strategic interventions that protect the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent and elderly health and nutrition through access to family planning services, immunisation and nutrition programmes.  

“Today youth leaders, campaigners and representatives of civil society organisations from across Nigeria are meeting to deliberate on the progress of improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents in Africa’s most populous nation,” he said.

According to him, Nigeria has the largest youth population in Africa.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, the group has been negatively affected more than others due to the disruptions of essential health, nutrition and social services.

 The World Health Day 2021 is aimed at building a fairer and healthier Nigeria,” said Mr Muhammad Usman, Chair of the National Advocates for Health (NA4H).

 “I am therefore calling on both federal and state governments to improve budgetary allocations and timely release of funds for health interventions, particularly for family planning, nutrition, primary healthcare  including the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and the national health insurance for universal health coverage.”

 The participants at the event discussed recent trends in maternal, newborn and adolescent health in Nigeria.

They also discussed opportunities for parliamentarians, including National Assembly’s committees on health and finance, to contribute towards better health for women, girls and adolescents.

Young people account for over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population,” said  Mrs Oyeyemi Pitan, Convener of the Nigerian Youth Champions for Universal Health Coverage (NYC4UHC).

“Therefore, the government, both at the federal and state levels, must invest in the health of young people by ensuring that all primary healthcare centres are adequately staffed, equipped and functional


“This is to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services, mental health services and essential life-saving drugs and commodities,” Pitan noted.

NAN reports that in 2020, PMNCH issued a 7-point call to Action in response to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.

It called on leaders to protect and prioritise their rights and health during the COVID-19 response and recovery by strengthening political commitment, policies and financing for vital health services and social protections, particularly for the most vulnerable.

For adolescents, it complements the PMNCH-led worldwide Call to Action on Adolescent Wellbeing.

Other low and middle-income countries that have made similar commitments include: Kenya, Liberia, Afghanistan, India, and Mexico, while donor countries, Canada, Germany, Sweden and United Kingdom.

The U.S. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have also pledged support for this critical area of global health and development that is vital to the achievement of universal health coverage.

However, experts say a lot still needs to be done and stopping preventable deaths of women, girls and children must remain a top priority.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the situation as a result of disruption of essential Reproductive Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescents’ Health services, including family planning at all levels of healthcare delivery.

Recent data from the WHO from 105 countries show that 90 per cent of countries have experienced disruptions to health services, with low- and middle-income countries reporting the greatest difficulties.

Some of the most frequently disrupted services include those related to: immunisation services (facility-based services: 61 per cent and outreach facilities: 70 per cent) and family planning and contraception services: 68 per cent.

On health statistics in Nigeria, WHO said about 20 per cent of all global maternal deaths occurred in Nigeria, with over 600,000 maternal deaths and about 900,000 maternal near-miss cases between 2005 and 2015 respectively.

It said that a woman in Nigeria had a 1-in-22 lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum/post-abortion compared with the lifetime risk of 1 in 4900 in the most developed countries.  

Nigeria’s large population size and high women, children and adolescent (WCA) morbidity and mortality means that the country’s progress can significantly shift the development in Africa and globally. 

The State of Child Health, according to the latest UNICEF “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality” stated that Nigeria recorded an estimated 858,000 under-five deaths in 2019.

With about 7.4 million children currently born annually in Nigeria, improved policy and investment in infant and child health is crucial to prevent an increase in under-5 mortality. 

Access to WASH in Schools was said to be a third of all schools 33 per cent have basic water supply services while 26 per cent of schools provide access to basic sanitation services. 

As little as three per cent of schools have girls’ toilet compartments that have provisions for menstrual hygiene management. 

Hand washing facilities are not available in 76.4 per cent of schools while about one in 10 schools 10 per cent have access to basic hygiene services.(NAN)