Youth in Mangochi have said inadequate health centres and health personnel in the district could be attributed to failure by young people to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services which they need most.
The youth voiced the concerns on Sunday during the Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) briefing held at Kukalanga Health Centre in the area of Traditional Authority Chimwala in the district.
Secretary for Chimwala Youth Network, Issa Prince said for instance, Kukalanga Health Centre has three nurses only but although it provides health services to about 65 villages, making it almost impossible for youth to access sufficient SRH services.
He said the number of patients the health facility serves every day continues to swell and that the nurses were always under pressure to assist the youth requiring SRH services.
“Imagine finding a health worker overwhelmed by a queue of patients, some very sick and in need of immediate attention and you hold them all up simply because you need counseling on SRH – It’s just not right,” Prince said.
He added that, “The only way to increase the number of youth who access SRH services in rural areas is to ensure that our areas have both enough health centres and personnel special for the provision of youth friendly SRH services, at least at every facility.”
Chairperson for Nankumba Youth Network, William Phiri noted that the lone two health centres of Nankumba and Chiringa in his area provide health services to about 100 villages.
“Most youths who come from far and distant locations fail to access information on SRH services such as contraceptives and as a result cases of child marriages and early pregnancies remain rampant,” he claimed.
District Youth Officer (DYO) for Mangochi, Kumbukani Manda concurred with the youth on the challenges they face, saying most girls in the district indeed get pregnant before the age of 18 because they do not have access to contraceptives.
He observed that the gap between the rate of women who get married before the age of 18 at national level and the rate of the same for Mangochi district was very appalling.
“At national level, about 49.9 per cent girls get married before the age of 18 while in Mangochi 57.7 percent of girls get married before the same age which is unacceptable by law,” Manda pointed out.
He added that the youth sector in the district was trying to reduce the cases of early marriages and teenage pregnancies through various activities, including community mobilization.
“The first option that we recommend to the youths is abstinence but to those who are very active sexually and cannot abstain we advise them to have access to contraceptive methods,” the DYO said.
He urged different governance structures such as area development committees and line government sectors to hold hands and speak with one voice in upholding youth friendly health services in the district.