Concerned by the spate of unsafe sex by adolescents in the country, an NGO, the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI 2), says there is need for increased information about unsafe sex to reduce the consequences.
According to the NGO, current studies indicate that about one-quarter of Nigerian adolescents are sexually active, with the age of sexual debut ranging from 10 to 15 years.
Dr Omasanjuwa Edun, Lagos State Team Leader, NURHI 2, made the assertion at a meeting on Net Mapping of Adolescents and Youth Family Planning Situation in Lagos State, on Wednesday.
“It has been projected that the population of young people in Nigeria will exceed 57 million by 2025, a large proportion of which are adolescents.
“Adolescents constitute an important proportion of the population of Nigeria and they have delicate stages that present with challenges, especially that of sexual and reproductive health due to the developmental changes.
“Unsafe sex is a common practice among youths resulting in unintended pregnancy that ends in unsafe abortion and its complications.
“This practice also exposes them to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV with a prevalence of 17 per cent among adolescents in the southeastern part and 14 per cent in the northern part of the country.’’
Edun said: “Adolescent pregnancy is also a daunting problem in Nigeria.
“A study by Envuladu, Van de Kwaak Anke, Zwanikken and Zoaka, published in the International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 2017, shows that unsafe sex is a common practice among adolescents.
“According to the study, inconsistent and incorrect condom use by them results in unintended pregnancy that ends in unsafe abortion and its complications.
“This practice also exposes them to STIs and HIV with a prevalence of 17 per cent among adolescents in the southeastern part and 14 per cent in the northern part of the country.
“The inability of adolescents to access contraception when needed has also been found to be responsible for the unintended pregnancy among adolescents, this in most instances end in unsafe abortion.
“ In southwestern Nigeria for example, 27.4 per cent unintended pregnancy among adolescents in a secondary school all ended in abortion, while other studies recorded about 60 per cent.’’
According to the NURHI Lagos State Team leader, Nigeria reports a yearly abortion rate of 25 abortions per 1,000 women and more than a quarter of which are from adolescents, resulting from unintended pregnancy.
“ In the southern part of Nigeria, about 32 per cent of the cases of unsafe abortion was among adolescents who had unintended pregnancy.
“All of these pose danger to the lives of adolescents contributing to the overall maternal mortality in Nigeria,’’ Edun said.
Also, Margaret Bolaji, Youth Programme Advisor, NURHI, said that pregnancy interfered with the education of adolescents.
“Evidence from studies shows that those who are pregnant as students either dropout of school or are dismissed from school, majority of whom may never get back to school again.
“Others are forced by their parents into child marriage as a result of the pregnancy.’’
To address unsafe sex and teenage pregnancy which have been identified as important maternal and public health challenges, Bolaji said there was the need for increased information on safe sex and family planning.
“There is need for teenagers to know how to guard against unwanted circumstances such as unwanted pregnancy to secure their future.
“Family planning is not only meant for married, but in the real sense of it, it is for every sexually active person not ready to bear children at that particular point in time.
“Thus, when the teenagers who are sexually active cannot be convinced to abstain from sex, they should be armed with information on the implications of sexual intercourse and family planning should be recommended for them.
“So, we have to start educating them on time to have the knowledge of family planning so that when they find themselves in such situations, they will be able to prevent unwanted pregnancies,’’ Bolaji said.