Clockwise: Shahan Ara Banu, Md Shamsul Haque, Mushfiqua Zaman, Nur Mohammad
Clockwise: Shahan Ara Banu, Md Shamsul Haque, Mushfiqua Zaman, Nur Mohammad

One third of the country’s population is adolescents. They are a valuable asset for the country and so healthcare for this section of the population needs more attention. The physical and mental health of adolescents and youth is important and it is also important that they can avail health services whenever necessary. This requires concerted efforts of the government and private sectors as well as other concerned quarters.

Discussants made these observations at a virtual roundtable on ‘Prospects and obstacles to implementing youth-friendly healthcare programmes’. The event was jointly organised on Sunday by Unite for Body Rights (UBR) Bangladesh Alliance and Prothom Alo, with support from the Netherlands embassy in Dhaka.

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Speaking as chief guest at the event, director general of the family planning directorate Shahan Ara Banu said there were 903 adolescent-friendly centres around the country at present. These centres provided the young with physical and mental healthcare. The government plans to provide services for young girls and boys all over the country through such centres. Awareness was also essential along with such initiatives.

Shahan Ara Banu told the roundtable that 16,967 call centres had been started up to increase awareness among the young about healthcare. These services were being provided through telemedicine. The government is working towards having two centres in every upazila by the year 2023. There are satellite clinic programmes for teenagers in industrial belts. Volunteers are taking healthcare services to the most remote areas of the country.

MNC&AH line director of the health directorate Md Shamsul Haque said that a programme is being carried out prioritizing adolescent-friendly healthcare. Trainers of various projects are being trained to ensure this service for the young. Over 1,500 first aid boxes have been provided to 150 schools for girls. There are considerations of spreading such programmes for boys and girls nationwide. He said more emphasis must be given to youth-friendly programmes in the coming five-year plan.

UNICEF’s maternal and adolescent healthcare expert Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem said there were various taboos and obstacles when it came to the health of young persons in Bangladesh. Many young people did not understand their own needs and hid their problems from others. When the matter of healthcare arises, mental health must also be included

Population Services and Training Centre (PSTC)’s executive director and UBR Alliance’s president Nur Mohammad said, from 2010 UBR has been working on healthcare for the adolescents and youth, making youth-friendly centres and creating environments favourable to the local youth. Youth and adolescent health care is being provided through a UBR Alliance project in 12 upazilas. These were non-government initiatives. However, there is need to coordinate these initiatives with government programmes.

The organisations under the UBR Alliance include RHSTEP, PSTC, SDK, BAPSA, BNPS and FPAB.

The Netherland Embassy’s senior policy advisor for sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender, Mushfiqua Zaman Satiar, placed emphasis on ensuring the accessibility of healthcare for the youth. She said that an environment should be created in the youth-friendly centres so that the young people do not hesitate to go there. It is essential that they have easy access for all information concerning reproductive healthcare. It is also important to ensure both the physical and mental well-being of the youth.

Line director for the family planning directorate (MCRAH) and director (mother and child health) Mohammed Sharif said that 10-25 years is the youth-friendly span of time. Good things and bad things can happen in this time. Young people undergo changes in this period. He said healthcare must be made more youth-friendly. He said it will be possible to ensure youth-friendly healthcare with the concerted efforts and commitment of the government and the non-government agencies.

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UNICEF’s maternal and adolescent healthcare expert Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem said there were various taboos and obstacles when it came to the health of young persons in Bangladesh. He said many young people did not understand their own needs and hid their problems from others. He said when the matter of healthcare arises, mental health must also be included. There was need for coordination between the inter-ministerial programmes in order to ensure healthcare for the young.

Project manager of the UBR-2 HIA project, Toufiq-ul Karim Chowdhury said, youth-friendly centres had been established in 12 upazilas, under a project of UBR. Young people from 10 to 24 years of age received various reproductive and sexual healthcare services here. But this was just an effort and was not adequate for the entire country. It must be ensured that such centres continue to run because these help the young people to develop themselves and educated citizens of the country.

Manager of the UBR BAPSA programme, Zubair Miah, said the young people providing healthcare through the projects of UBR youth-friendly centres were like part of a movement. The project has ended now, but these youth care centres can be attached to the government youth programmes.

In his opening statements at the roundtable, Prothom Alo’s associate editor Abdul Quayum said the country will benefit of the youth population can be developed both physically and mentally. This will be a huge achievement for the country. It must be ensured that the youth can be the pride of the country.

The roundtable was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Chowdhury.