The Minister of Health, Dr Richard Sezibera, has singled out illiteracy as a major cause of teenage pregnancies and limited use of family planning methods amongst Rwanda’s youth.
He said this Monday while addressing regional United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) officials who are in the country to develop a framework for action on youth and adolescents.
Sezibera called for more coordinated efforts to address reproductive health challenges amongst the youth who make up 50.4 % of the Rwandan population.
“There is an acute lack of information on reproductive health amongst the illiterates in our country,” he stressed.
Sezibera added that though the use of family planning has greatly improved, especially amongst university students, the uneducated continue to lag behind.
“The current health sector strategic plan in response to EDPRS identifies sexual and reproductive health needs of youth as an area of concern to be tackled by all government departments,” Sezibera noted.
Sezibera noted that government has in the same context initialized youth community centres across the country that will facilitate youth education in, reproductive health, entrepreneurship and related issues.
“We want to engage the community in delivery of services at community level and the youth are a lynchpin for this, through the centres the youth will be equipped with information they need to address the challenges they face,” Sezibera said.
He revealed that the total number of women dying during pregnancy or birth has decreased as a result of community-based maternal death audits initialized in January this year.
“Maternal death audits that we have been carrying out since January indicate that we have lost a hundred mothers this year as compared to last years 2875 for the same period,”
Sezibera noted that the workshop aims to develop one framework for action that would ensure harmonization of intervention amongst youths in all sectors.
The Minister’s remarks were supported by UNFPA Youth and HIV Advisor, Asha Muhamud, who noted that though parallel approaches to youth’s sexual and reproductive health are successful, there is need to develop more sustainable and coordinated solution.
“We need to deliver an essentially coordinated package to the youth, a comprehensive approach to preventing and addressing risky factors and promoting positive behavioural change for life,” Muhamud said.
UNFPA is spearheading the four-day workshop to ensure development of a framework for action for adolescents and youth to be adopted in all ten represented countries.