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The sexual health of young people: A major challenge for development in Africa

28.03.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
In the world today, there are more than one million people infected with a sexually transmitted disease, according to a recent WHO report; a total of about 357 million infections per year. 45 million women who get pregnant resort to an abortion which leads to nearly 70,000 deaths, 97% of them in developing countries.

Sexual health: an alarming situation

Africa is one of the continents most affected by this issue for a variety of reasons.

Many Africans engage in sexual activities very early. About 60% of women have their first sexual intercourse before the age of 18 against between 40 and 45% for men. Social taboos make sex education difficult both within and outside the family, poverty, lack of information on sexual reproductive health and sexual rights.

However, one of the biggest causes remains the lack of an adequate response to the phenomenon especially the insufficiency of adapted health structures, medical and psychological care, and at the legal level, the restrictions on the question of the abortion.

The consequences are enormous on the continent and constitute a real obstacle to its development. In a direct or indirect way, the insufficiencies in the field of sexual health are at the origin of the school dropouts, illiteracy, and the increase of maternal and infant mortality rate due to poverty. This undeniably affects Africa’s overall development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

A crucial question for the emergence of Africa

In Togo, as in most West African countries, the major concern is the limited access to information and services by young people and adolescents and this is a major concern for the state. Young people have also taken measure alongside the initiatives of the state and have launched innovative and encouraging initiatives in the field.

In response, a national program for the health of young people and adolescents in Togo has been in place since 1997 and aims to ensure better psychological and health care for young people and adolescents. An action plan for the repositioning of family planning in accordance with the Ouagadougou partner countries, with the concerns of young people and a national service dedicated to the health of young people and adolescents.

International organizations and civil society organizations have also developed various strategies to tackle the problem. Among other things, the Family Welfare Association has developed a program called the Comprehensive Sex Education Program with the aim of integrating and implementing gender-specific and gender-based comprehensive sex education (ESC) rights in national programs. In the same light, an association called AV – Youth (Association of volunteers for the promotion of young people) implemented an innovative project called “E – Center Convivial”. A digital platform dedicated to sexual and reproductive health in Togo. A website and a downloadable application on Play store which connects young people and professionals (gynecologists, midwives, sexual reproductive health advisers) 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. On the menu, online assistance, STI consultations with reference to health centers if necessary, monitoring of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy monitoring, and family planning and practical advice.

This latest initiative seems to be the answer of the hour, when we know how quickly technology is changing and how young people are increasingly hanging around it in the world, especially in Togo.

For a continent with an extremely young population the stakes of sexual health necessarily affect its development and it is almost utopian to succeed the challenge of development of Africa without giving young people the opportunity to preserve their physical and mental health while blossoming gradually into an adult life. Young people represent a large part of the African population who, besides being very young, constitute a great pool of potential for the emergence of Africa.

This issue was central to the Cairo Conference in 1994 and was one of the objectives: “to ensure that comprehensive information and the full range of reproductive health services, including planning are accessible.

25 years later, this goal is struggling to materialize and the record is not very pleasing especially for African countries. The obvious reason is the weak implementation of the plan of action provided by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

To this end, the Nairobi summit CIPD25 announced in New York on January 18, 2019 by the Kenyan government and UNFPA carries great hopes. We know from news that Kenya plans to amend the law on sexual offenses by lowering the age of sexual consent from 18 years to 16. The question that comes naturally is this: Does a 16-year-old girl have the maturity to give informed consent? This question raises a great deal of controversy. However, one thing is certain; the consequences will be devastating in the area of ​​sexual health. Scheduled for November 12-14, 2019 in Kenya, the main goal of this meeting is to advance the implementation of this program of action, which at the time focused on sexual health, and women’s empowerment. Gender equality as an essential element of sustainable development may be the ideal framework for an effective response.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image : google image.com

 

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