Recent stats show that 1 in every 6 of the world’s population, are adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19, thus, we can say that there are about 1.2 billion adolescents alive today.
Bringing the stats back home, it is said that nearly a third of Nigeria’s population is between the ages of 10 to 24, and there are over 30 million Nigerians who are between the ages of 10 and 19, thus making it very pertinent that we pay close attention to persons that fall within the adolescent group.
The irony however, is that Nigeria has not been giving as much attention to the adolescents as one would deem really necessary, especially in the area of health; and this coupled with many other prevailing factors in the nation, has continued to threaten the healthy existence of these special people.
As a result of the lack of top notch care and attention for the adolescents in Nigeria, one can still sadly note that there exist a substantial amount of premature deaths recorded.
Studies have shown that there are so many health challenges faced by the Nigerian adolescent today, however, there are 5 major health issues that poses grave danger to their existence.
Below are these 5 major health issues threatening the existence of adolescents in Nigeria.
Older adolescents (especially males) are threatened daily by the violence they face or indulge in, thus making this one issues that puts so many adolescent males at risk in Nigeria.
According to reports, over 50 percent of the male adolescent population in Nigeria have either been exposed to oe be involved in physical fights and bullying. A shocking percent of these males have also been involved in gang related affairs.
Physical fights and bullying are common among these adolescents and are associated with adverse health outcomes and behaviours.
Promoting nurturing relationships between parents and children early in life, providing training in life skills, and reducing access to alcohol and firearms can help to prevent injuries and deaths due to violence. Effective and empathetic care for adolescent survivors of violence and ongoing support can help deal with the physical and psychological consequences.
2. Mental health
Depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents (15–19 years). Violence, poverty, humiliation and feeling devalued can increase the risk of developing mental health problems.
Building life skills in children and adolescents and providing them with psychosocial support in schools and other community settings can help promote good mental health. Programmes to help strengthen the ties between adolescents and their families are also important. If problems arise, they should be detected and managed by competent and caring health workers.
3. Alcohol, drugs and Tobacco use
Harmful drinking among adolescents is a major concern in many countries. It reduces self-control and increases risky behaviours, such as unsafe sex or dangerous driving. It is a primary cause of injuries (including those due to road traffic accidents), violence (especially by a partner) and premature deaths. It can also lead to health problems in later life and affect life expectancy. Setting a minimum age for buying and consuming alcohol and regulating how alcoholic drinks are targeted at the younger market are among the strategies for reducing harmful drinking.
Drug use among 15–19 year olds is also an important global concern. Drug control may focus on reducing drug demand, drug supply, or both, and successful programmes usually include structural, community, and individual-level interventions.
The vast majority of people using tobacco today began doing so when they were adolescents. Prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors and increasing the price of tobacco products through higher taxes, banning tobacco advertising and ensuring smoke-free environments are crucial. Globally, at least 1 in 10 adolescents aged 13 to 15 years uses tobacco, although there are areas where this figure is much higher. Cigarette smoking seems to be decreasing among younger adolescents in some high-income countries.
4. Early pregnancy and childbirth
The leading cause of death for 15– 19-year-old girls globally is complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
Some 11% of all births worldwide are to girls aged 15–19 years, and the vast majority of these births are in low- and middle-income countries. The UN Population Division puts the global adolescent birth rate in 2015 at 44 births per 1000 girls this age – country rates range from 1 to over 200 births per 1000 girls (1). This indicates a marked decrease since 1990. This decrease is reflected in a similar decline in maternal mortality rates among 15–19 year olds.
One of the specific targets of the health Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) is that by 2030, the world should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes. To support this, a proposed indicator for the Global strategy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health is the adolescent birth rate.
Better access to contraceptive information and services can reduce the number of girls becoming pregnant and giving birth at too young an age. Laws that specify a minimum age of marriage at 18 and which are enforced can help.
Girls who do become pregnant need access to quality antenatal care. Where permitted by law, adolescents who opt to terminate their pregnancies should have access to safe abortion.
More than 2 million adolescents are living with HIV. Although the overall number of HIV-related deaths is down 30% since the peak in 2006 estimates suggest that HIV deaths among adolescents are rising. This increase, which has been predominantly in the WHO African Region, may reflect the fact that although more children with HIV survive into adolescence, they do not all then get the care and support they need to remain in good health and prevent transmission. In sub-Saharan Africa only 10% of young men and 15% of young women aged 15 to 24 are aware of their HIV status.
One of the specific targets of the health Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) is that by 2030 there should be an end to the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases, hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases. Given the high prevalence of HIV in many countries, to achieve this, adolescents will need to be central to control efforts.
Young people need to know how to protect themselves and must have the means to do so. This includes being able to obtain condoms to prevent sexual transmission of the virus and clean needles and syringes for those who inject drugs. Better access to HIV testing and counselling, and stronger subsequent links to HIV treatment services for those who test HIV positive, are also needed.
Illnesses can hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. Alcohol or tobacco use, lack of physical activity, unprotected sex and/or exposure to violence can jeopardize not only their current health, but also their health as adults, and even the health of their future children.
Promoting healthy behaviours during adolescence, and taking steps to better protect young people from health risks are critical for the prevention of health problems in adulthood, and for countries’ future health and ability to develop and thrive.