By Feston Malekezo:
Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) continues to be a road less taken in the country.
In the latest case, a report on access to SRH) services among youths in Nkhata Bay District indicates that privacy is one of the challenges negatively affecting access to such services.
The report indicates that most hospitals in the district do not have private rooms when youths can access services.
Results of the report, which Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) has released, were disseminated on Tuesday to stakeholders in the district.
It is one of the fruits of Marriage: No Child’s Play Project implemented in Nkhata Bay, Mangochi and Mchinji districts.
“It is true that we, as youths, continue to struggle to access SRH services. Apart from facing the challenge of being at the receiving end of health workers’ negative attitude, our privacy is also not respected, as evidenced by shortage of rooms where the youth can be helped,” says Lucy Sammy Banda, a 21-year-old school leaver from Nkhata Bay.
Genet Project Coordinator, Lizzie Waya, concurs with Banda.
Waya says most young people feel awkward when accessing SHR services in the presence of older service users.
“The communities, especially the youth, feel that if they do not have a special space at the health centre, they have problems when it comes to accessing youth friendly health services and, most times, you find that access they services in a room where people of other ages receive treatment.
“So, they have been complaining for some time that they need a special place in health centres. Genet trained youth friendly health service providers and what remains are the spaces,” he says.
Genet assessed three health centres in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mankhambila— Maula and Chilambwe health centres—and T/A Fukamapiri, where Kachere Health Centre was visited.
Some of the stakeholders present at the dissemination forum included Health Advisory Committee members, chiefs, health service providers, community members, among others.
Nkhata Bay District Youth Friendly Health Services Coordinator, Reuben Moyo, acknowledges that youths sometimes struggle to access health services.
He, however, says there are plans to have special rooms for youths in health facilities.
He says some facilities face the challenge of rooms because they were constructed long ago and, without extension exercises, they are simply not enough to cater for Malawi’s growing population.
“Plans are there to extend the rooms but resources are not there yet.
“But we are hopeful that, by the end of this year, some of the health facilities will have special rooms for the youth,” he says.
The 2015/16 Demographic Health Survey indicates that Nkhata Bay is one the districts with increased cases of marriage of underage couples.
Teenage pregnancies is another challenge, affecting up to 41.3 percent of the youth population.
The development has angered T/As Fukamapili, Mankhambira and Fukamalaza, with the latter vowing to root out such practices.
Malawi has a Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy through which the government is committed to providing comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) services in line with the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt, 1994.
Malawi is also a signatory of the African Union Maputo Plan of Action which advocates integrated SRHR Plan.
The Ministry of Health, through the Reproductive Health Unit (RHU), has since 1997 coordinated the integration, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of SRHR services at all levels.
RHU indicates in a statement: “The Malawi National Reproductive Health Programme is the framework through which the Ministry of Health manages SRHR services. The National RH programme goal is to promote through informed choice, safer reproductive heal th pract ices by men, women, and youth including use of quality and accessible reproductive health services.”
President Peter Mutharika indicated in his inaugural address after the May 21 2019 presidential election that his administration was committed to promoting access to health services, including by youths, who are the most productive age group at any given point.
But putting plans into action has always been a challenge in the local setup, leaving youths such as those in Nkhata Bay in the cold.