By George Bulombola:
Young people are future leaders, goes the adage without expounding what it takes for a person to grow and develop into a leader.
Youth comprise 60 percent of the countrys population (according to Population and Housing Census of 2018) if well-developed in all spheres of life can be a major work force for the development of the country.
With this understanding, youth are a treasure which need to be jealously guarded to ensure that they are well nurtured and develop into instrumental citizens of the country.
The most common challenge which youth especially in hard to reach areas is lack of accessibility to Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) and youth of Kapongolo area in the area of Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba are no exception.
YFHS Program was introduced 2000 and in 2007 Ministry of Health through the Reproductive Heath Directorate develop developed YFHS Standards with the aim of providing quality services to young people.
According Osman Mkosi who is a youth focal person at Luvwere Health Centre says the intervention provides comfortable, appropriate and non-threatening settings to attract youth and support their diverse health needs
The initiative is also expected to provide a safe zone for youths. This is a place where adolescents can access health information concerning their lives and non-judgmental services relating to reproductive health, narrates Mkosi.
He says YFHS were introduced at the health center sometime back but young people around and afar the facility were not utilizing the services due to lack of knowledge of the services availability until Gender Governance Institute (GGI) with support from Tilitonse Foundation came in.
Mkosi said GGI embarked on social mobilization in collaboration with health surveillance assistants creating awareness as one way of adverting the services for the youth to access them.
With this intervention, I can happily say that there is increased number of girls and boys accessing the services and we commend GGI and Tilitonse Foundation for that. Besides that, we have noted increased visibility of YFHS issues, he said.
He said there is a signpost which indicates the services are being offered and recreational materials such as netballs, footballs, volleyballs and bawo as it provided in the YFHS Strategy.
Nkosi said the recreational materials entice the young people to participate in YFHS hence accessing the same.
We also have young people from Kapongolo who have been included the youth committee on YFHS, said Nkosi.
One of the members of the youth committee on YFHS, Chikumbutso Ngala who hails from Kapongolo Village which is almost 9 Kilometres to Luvwere Health Centre, recalled that there used to many sexual transmitted infection (STI) cases including HIV and Aids in her area before raising of awareness of the availability of YFHS at the facility.
She also says dropping out of school was the order of the day, saying some learners at both secondary and primary schools fell prey to ignorance of the services thereby rushing into marriage.
Ngala then commended a health surveillance assistant of the area who provides key information including counselling services so the youth should not be embarrassed to talk to health workers freely if they had an STI.
“We have a community based distribution agent within our area but most of us do not feel comfortable to visit her for contraceptives because we fear that we can bump each other with our parents or their friends looking for the services, hence we opt to walk to the health center, said Ngala.
She however expressed concern over long distance which youth cover to and Luvwere Health Centre for the services which include contraceptives and sexual reproductive health rights related information.
Motor cycle taxi transport costs about K3,000.00 to and from the facility as it is almost nine kilometers from Kapongolo. This is a challenge as most young people cannot afford such an amount of money. We therefore appeal top duty bearers to ensure that the services are brought at our doorsteps for easy access, said Ngala.
According to one of the members of Mtwalo Area Development Committee, John Chiumia, there are plans to incorporate other stakeholders such as parents and traditional leaders in the initiative for community support and sustainability of the practice.
GGI with support from Tilitonse Foundation with funding from European Union (EU) and Royal Norwegian Embassy has been running Sexual Reproductive Health Right Project in the area.