Global youth leaders have called for more youth friendly family planning services. This was at the just-concluded fourth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) held in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.
Experts say adolescent girls are at a heightened risk of pregnancy and childbirth-related health complications, which is a leading cause of deaths among young women aged between 15 and 19 in low and middle income countries.
According to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2014/2015, teenage pregnancy between the age of 15 and 19 was at 7.3 per cent.
Speaking to The New Times, Dr Anicet Nzabonimpa, a reproductive health family planning expert at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said there is need for new ways to reach young people with information on contraceptive services.
Based on the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2014/2015, at least 35.3 per cent of youth between the age of 15 and 19 use contraception, while 47.4 per cent of youth between the age of 20 and 24 use contraceptive methods.
The most used contraception method is the condom, according to Nzabonimpa.
Statistics indicate, that globally, only 22 per cent of women aged between 15 and 24 are using contraception, compared to 60 per cent of women over the age of 30.
“With the youth we don’t call it family planning; instead we call it prevention of unwanted pregnancies. The Ministry of Health set up youth corners at most health centres in the country to provide friendly reproductive health services. These supplement the 17 youth friendly centres that are at different districts,” said Nzabonimpa.
He further said that, at youth corners, there are usually two (one male and one female) health personnel who are youths themselves and they also work on weekends.
“The youth used to shy away from health centres because they were scared of meeting older people when coming for reproductive health information and services. Youth corners were set up so that the youth could easily access the services,” Nzabonimpa explained.
At the conference, it was noted that, in Asia and Africa, over half of the youth who want to avoid pregnancy don’t have access to contraceptive services.
Speakers discussed specific ways to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people, including youth friendly health services, as well as laws and policies focused on adolescent health.
Young leaders at the conference emphasised the need to meaningfully engage youth and adolescents as key partners and decision makers on reproductive health.
Katja Iversen, the chief executive of Women Deliver, noted that it is the needs and the choices of young people today, who account for half the world’s population, that will define the world “not only as we know it, but as we want it”.
“Giving them the opportunities and the access so they can make those choices and reach their full potential is important for all of us,” said Iversen.
Expanding family planning for youth and adolescents has long-term benefits for society as a whole, they said.
Young people, who utilise family planning services and information, are more likely to complete their education, pursue the career of their choice, raise healthy children and live healthier and more prosperous lives.
ICFP brings together leaders and family planning advocates from around the world to ensure that everyone, including the youth, has the tools to plan their families and futures.