By Frankie Ifop, Calabar
The prevalence rate of Teenage Pregnancy in Cross River State, Nigeria stands at 17% for girls between age 10-18, says the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Inyang Asibong and Head of UNFPA office in the State, Dr. Kenneth Ehouzou.
This was made known on Tuesday in a programme organised for young people by AHF Nigeria in collaboration with Cuso International, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), YouLead Nigeria, Development Options, Girl Power Initiative (GPI), Afterschool Centre for Career Development (ACCD), BrenCare Foundation, to mark the 2018 International Day of the Girl Child in Calabar. The theme for this year’s event is: ‘Keep The Promise To Girls’.
Speaking further, Dr. Asibong said the Cross River State Government is doing everything in her might to ensure the rate is reduced to zero. “We have built a Youth/Adolescent Friendly Centre domiciled in the General Hospital where all questions are being answered and care is also given. We are doing gender mainstreaming across all the health facilities where special attention is given to the Girl Child.
“The 17% rate is too high for our young girls to be getting pregnant, therefore I thank the UNFPA, Cuso International, AHF Nigeria, BrenCare Foundation for their partnership and together we’ll make Cross River State great,” Asibong said.
Addressing the press, Dr. Echey Ijezie, Country Programme Director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AHF Nigeri said AHF is the world largest NGO for HIV/AIDS. According to him, “We have been operating in Nigeria since 2011 and we are present in 6 states including Cross River State – we deliver free HIV/AIDS care and treatment services.”
Dr. Ijezie who gathered over a 120 girls across schools in the state said AHF Nigeria is looking at empowering the Girl Child as well as giving her a voice. “We are looking at empowering the Girl Child. We are looking at giving the Girl Child the voice. We are looking at ensuring that she have live skills by improving her negotiation skills – above all, ensuring that she’s able to spread her wings and fly.”
On his part, Dr. Kenneth Ehouzou, Head of UNFPA in Cross River State said the rate of Teenage Pregnancy in the state is higher as compared to most states in the nation.
According to him, “If you look at the DHS (Demographic and Health Surveys) for 2013, Cross River State stands around 17% of Teenage Pregnancy for girls between age 10-18. While that of the nation is at 12%, the data for Cross River State high compared to most states.”
Dr. Ehouzou also said this is contributing to the mortality rate as well as fistula cases in the state. “There’s a necessity work ongoing to access the percent of young girls who are contributing to the maternal mortality rate in Cross River, which is about 576 for 100,000 live births in Cross River State.
“As you have maternity dead of those young girls, you also have what we call fistula – and this young girls contribute to this fistula cases. We just finished 23 repairs of mothers who have fistula cases 15 years, 10 years ago – this people were young when they had that pregnancy. What we want now is to avoid those girls to add up to the number of fistula cases that we have already in the state.”
He continued, “In Nigeria alone, we have 12,000 cases of fistula every year and we are only able to repair 2,000 cases per year. So, we need more of this forum.”
Adding to that, Ehouzou said for the issues relating to HIV/AIDS in Cross River State, majority of the population are the young people, both girls and boys. “What this kind of awareness event create is to have girls understand the value that they have – like building their capacity, empowering them so that they are able to negotiate what they want. When they are being approached, they should know their body and start with the menstruation education system,” he said.
Speaking also was the representative of Cuso International, Emilia Okon who said the organisation value young girls since they operate on a gender equality basis.
According to her, “We have a Youth Friendly Centres at Calabar Municipality, Calabar South and Odukpani Local Government Area of the state. The centres are to make sure there’s no gender disparity between a boy and a girl child. It is also a place to get adequate information on family planning, teenage pregnancy and more.”
Miss Ama Archibong, a Girl Child advocate working with BrenCare Foundation said though she had a good experience because of the family she grew up with and the reason why she has to advocate for other girls with less privileges.
She urged parents and guardians to create a safe space for their girl children by listening to them as well as act when necessary.
There was also an essay competition on Safe Spaces and what Safe Space means as organised by AHF Nigeria. At the end of the competition, 3 winners carted away 3 Laptop Computers with best selling books. The winners are, Master Constant Mboto who came first, Miss Archibong Peace Etim and Miss Vivian Victor Bassey who came 2nd and 3rd respectively.