THE IMPACT OF COVID19 ON THE SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN NIGERIA by Elizabeth Talatu WilliamsINCRESE
As a young person with goals and aspirations set at the beginning of the year with not a slightest thought or imagination that a time would come where I would not be able to leave my house still seems like a dream I am yet to wake up from.
Unfortunately, reality dawned on me as days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months with boredom lingering, fear of getting infected ringing in my head, panic and anxiety from news on COVID19 staring at my face all day, increased workload and uncertainty of what tomorrow holds. My world has literally become a virtual reality with video calls replacing physical visits, conference calls replacing office meetings, and online activities making up for inability to have community engagements.
More than ever, the COVID-19 which was declared a pandemic by World Health Organization on the 11th of March, 2020 has caused havoc on our health systems, led to a global economic shutdown, and overturned life as we know it. The rate at which the virus is spreading is alarming and has shown the lack of preparedness of government, health systems and social networks to respond to the emerging needs of young people health and wellbeing in Nigeria and the world as a whole.
During crises, it becomes more difficult for young people to access contraceptives as youth friendly centers and community centers are closed thereby resulting in unintended pregnancies. Also, the lockdown of schools as we currently have it, pregnancy among adolescents tends to increase. There is also increased incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) during a crisis and when people are advised or required to stay home, they may not be able to leave an unsafe or violent situation.
Women and girls including young people assume a heavier caregiver responsibility and, in turn, face increased risks to their physical and mental health. In addition, issues around food scarcity abound in this period and young girls may be compelled to compromise themselves sexually in order to survive.
Therefore, the sexual reproductive health needs of young people have to be prioritized even during this times by ensuring unrestricted access to contraceptives via the primary health centers, leverage on online platforms to provide sexual reproductive health information, provision of palliatives to young people especially girls and young women, making available reporting mechanisms for cases of gender based violence and providing online and alternative learning platforms such as the radio and TV for young people even while they stay at home.
Dear young person, do not despair or lose hope during these trying times, avoid risky sexual behaviors, engage in productive activities such as reading, learning a skill, exercising and ensure you protect your mental health. Use your voice to speak out and report any case of abuse and most importantly stay safe.