The Federal Government has renewed its commitment to strengthen collaborations with UN to remove bias in providing reproductive health services to young people in Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, made this known in Abuja while receiving Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
Adewole said that teenage pregnancy, low contraceptive prevalence, gender based violence and unemployment among young people were major concern of the present administration.
The minister said that government was also concerned over the high numbers of out of school children, mostly girls.
He said that Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of the out of school children globally.
According to him, at the last count, Nigeria has about 10 to 12 million people who are out of school, mostly girls.
“Many of the young girls became mothers before they matured.
“Many of them developed complications because as at the time they became mothers, their systems have not matured to take such responsibility,’’ Adewole said.
The minister lauded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for driving the agenda and supporting the government of Nigeria to harness the potential of young people.
“For us in Nigeria, 70 per cent of our populations are young people.
“We have little or no choice than to face the issues of young people squarely.
“The late Executive Director of UNFPA, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin, has passion for ensuring that the potential of young people were fully harnessed, as they are great asset of Nigeria,’’ he said.
The minister said that Nigeria was out of recession and that government could allocate more resources to issues that affect the young people.
He said government was looking at the problem from different perspectives, adding that government would address some of the challenges through social investment programme.
“We are putting money into the school feeding programme to ensure that pupils remain in school, N-Power Programme, N-Health and Community Health Influencers programmes.
“This is to ensure that more young people are engaged and boost confidence in the health and improve attendance and patronage to health facilities,’’ he said.
Earlier, Dr Eugene Kongnyuy, the Deputy Country Representative of UNFPA Nigeria, said visit of the envoy was to ensure that young people were brought closer to UN system.
Kongnyuy said that the key message of her visit to Federal Ministry of Health was to explore area of collaborations between Federal Government and United Nations to bring reproductive health services closer to youths.
Wickramanayake said that she was in Nigeria for a three-day working visit on her multi-country mission across Africa.
“It has been an interesting mission for me after my appointment as the UN Youth Envoy
“This is the first time I am doing multi- country mission in Africa and meeting young people from Africa.
“I was appointed six months ago by the UN Secretary-General as his Youth Envoy,’’ she said.
The envoy said prior to that, she came from Sri Lanka and she co-founded the youth organisation as #youth generation that mobilised youths in Sri Lank to be more civically and politically engaged.
“Access to information on sexual reproductive health services, large number of teenage pregnancies and maternal health are recurring issues which young people keep telling me throughout my stay in Africa.
“I also understood from my colleagues in UNFPA Nigeria that you have some comprehensive strategies and policies in place to address these issues.
“So, I am very interested to learn from you how you have able to tackle some of these issues,’’ she said.