Mr. Pius Enam Hadzide, CEO of the National Youth Authority (NYA), said that Ghana’s wealth and fate is linked to the health and well-being of the youth.
He said that Ghana must ensure equal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE) among young people, especially the out-of-school segment, to achieve its vision of industrialization and the corresponding improvement in the quality of life. economic, social and cultural development of youth. .
Mr. Hadzide made the comments during a stakeholder consultative meeting on reproductive health education for out-of-school youth in Ghana.
The event was organized by the NYA in partnership with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG). He brought together stakeholders to develop strategies on how to make SRH accessible to out-of-school youth in Ghana.
The CEO said figures from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) District Health Information Management System (DHIMS) suggested 109,888 teenage pregnancies were registered in 2020 alone, and of those 2,865 pregnancies were to older girls. of 10 years. and 14 years, below the legal age of consent.
He said the DHIMS again reported that 555,575 teenage pregnancies were recorded between 2016 and 2020, with the corresponding figure for girls aged 10 and 14 being 13,444, so on average 112,800 adolescent girls. got pregnant every year.
Mr Hadzide said the Ghana AIDS Commission revealed last month that 18,928 new HIV infections were recorded in 2020 and that this figure was part of an existing number of 342,307 people living with the disease. HIV.
“These figures justify the need to provide comprehensive SRH to young people. While there remain gaps in the provision of comprehensive SRH in Ghanaian schools, existing research has shown a relationship between schooling and safer sexual behaviors.”
âThis is because the school provides a stable and credible environment where the same group of young people are educated and their sexual and reproductive health issues and concerns are addressed over a period of time. In contrast, out-of-school youth are prone to misinformation from unreliable sources or may not be aware of these issues at all, âhe said.
He said that the 2014 Ghana Health and Demography Survey indicated that people with no education were more likely to have an early age of first sexual intercourse compared to those with some level of education.
He said underage pregnant adolescents face increased risks of premature labor, miscarriages, stillbirths and fistula development and are more likely to suffer from maternal mortality.
The CEO said that beyond the immediate health risks, there are social and economic implications for adolescent girls who have carried the pregnancy to term, as adolescent parents, especially the daughter, may be removed from the pregnancy. school, thus losing the training needed to be financially secure in the future.
“In addition, the consequences of unemployment for out-of-school youth can lead them to take to the streets where they are exposed to experience risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.”
âOther street children may engage in sex work. All of these behaviors increase the likelihood of sexual abuse and risky sexual behavior that makes them vulnerable to STIs and HIV / AIDS infections as well as to unwanted pregnancies, “he added.
He said a 2017 study conducted jointly by researchers at the University of Cape Coast and the US-based Guttmacher Institute suggested that SSR should cover a range of topics that fit into five categories. main, namely sexual and reproductive physiology, HIV / STI prevention, contraception. and unwanted pregnancy, Interpersonal values ââand skills and Gender and sexual reproductive rights.
Mr. Hadzide urged stakeholders to merge these categories to adapt them to the Ghanaian context and in a language accessible to out-of-school youth and able to reach them regardless of their level.
âIn addition, we need to find ways to provide them with this knowledge. In doing so, we can take advantage of new technologies, especially the Internet, to disseminate this information in addition to the traditional means used. In this regard, we will transform social media from a source of disinformation to a source of education, âhe said.
Ms Victoria Obenewah, Senior Nurse, GHS, advised teens to avoid peer influence, quit drug and alcohol addiction, and beware of bad friends.
Ms. Obenewah also warned them to be alert to those close to them as most of the rapes were committed by close relatives and friends.
She called for tougher penalties for rape and incest crimes and urged the media to step up education on adolescent reproductive health.
The nurse urged the government, chiefs and queen mothers, opinion leaders, religious bodies and non-governmental organizations to get involved in activities related to adolescents.
She said that to promote adolescent reproductive health rights, quality information about family planning and contraceptives should be available and easily accessible.
Ms. Obenewah said it would help adolescents make informed decisions about their reproductive health.
She urged stakeholders to maintain the utmost privacy and confidentiality of adolescents who have spoken to them about their issues.
Dr Leticia Adelaide Appiah, Executive Director of the National Population Council, said young people are the nation’s most important asset and urged government and stakeholders to put young people first not just in words but in action. .
She said that in developing the comprehensive SRHE, stakeholders should consider the importance of nurturing positive attitudes and values ââin young people, including openness, respect for self and others.