Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, has recommended that to improve the reproductive health system in the state and across the federation, there must be mass education, increased investment in health, good governance, social and economic empowerment of women. Other issues to be addressed according to him, are strengthening of health services, development of a rights-based code of ethics and domestication of international conventions.
Dr Idris stated this at the maiden lecture and award series of Inspiration 92.3fm, with the theme: “Amazing Reproductive Health- reproductive health across life’s course”, held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Kofo Abayomi, Victoria Island, Lagos. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was the special guest of honour at the lecture.
According to Dr Idirs, issues that affect reproductive health include age; rural-urban dwellers; education; socio-economic status; work; cultural and social norms; such as female genital mutilation; early marriage; female disinheritance; gender and socio-economic issues; human rights; existing laws; policies; regulations and strategies.
According to the commissioner, that is why a state like Lagos has 24.2 per cent of women having their first sexual intercourse before the age of 18 years. This is verified by the National Demographic and Health Survey and the Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey, which reported that 24.2 per cent of women in Lagos had their first sexual intercourse before attaining the age of 18 years.
The national figures of women that have sex before the age of 18 is about 51 per cent. In Lagos, one out of every four women would have been exposed to sex before 18 and the national average for Nigeria is one of two women.
He said: “The difference in these figures might be attributed to several factors, such as female education, urbanisation, child marriages etc. With an average age at first birth at 20 years, about 22.5 per cent of pregnancies are from teenagers in Nigeria. More worrying, however, is that reports showed that as at this year, about 40 per cent of women in the Southwest have experienced physical violence since age 15 and sexual violence cannot be excluded from these statistics.”
According to him, “in a country where more than 60 per cent of its population are young people and significant numbers of these youths are exposed to sexual intercourse at an early age, either voluntarily or violently, a lot of potential problems emerge.
“Such problems are associated with sexually transmitted infections; childhood pregnancy; trauma and its accompanying physical and mental health implications. This means that there must be access to knowledge about sexual health and systems that modify behaviour, as well as access to services that prevent and manage them.”
Acting Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Ademola Mogbojuri, represented by Mrs Bolaji Abayomi, advised mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of delivery and continue to breastfeed their babies for three years with the addition of supplements in order to make for healthy living of the child.
Chairman of the occasion and founder of Benola, a non governmental organisation (NGO) with focus on Palsy, Air Vice Marshal Femi Gbadebo (rtd), said for proper reproductive healthcare, the issues of ante-natal, mother and child care, among others, must be addressed. “We need to educate ourselves on what needs to be done,”he said.
In his remarks, Amazing Inspiration Media Chairman, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, said the decision to hold the lecture was borne out of the need to contribute to the issue of healthy living among the people.
Represented by Mr. Soni Irabor, Akingbola said the best approach to solving issues around reproductive health is when there is a forum for people to break the silence on it for a common solution.
He also disclosed that since the radio station has a passion for every segment of the society, there was the need to accord priority to the well being of the citizens by providing swift and genuine information on how to address their health challenges.
Guest Speaker, Chief Executive Officer, SLOT Systems Limited, Nnamdi Ezeigbo, said IT and telecommunication play influential role in any society. “It is high time government explored this avenue to educate youth. And equally plan for a robust society that can boast of vibrant health because the government has loaded the airwaves and communication with reliable and adequate information that are easily accessible,”he said.