Take care of the adolescents

The coordination between activities on government and non-government levels has to be intensified for the implementation of national strategy for adolescent health. 

From left to right, Md Manzur Hossain, Quazi Suraiya Sultana and Begum Mashfiqa Zaman Satiar during a roundtable at Prothom Alo office.
Prothom Alo

Line director (CCSD) at the directorate general of family planning, Nurun Nahar begum said that the government has prepared national strategy for adolescent health as well as a plan of action (2020-30) to implement it.

Now the progress of work has to be determined through an intermediary evaluation. And we have to move forward by making plans about how much money will be spent in how many years and what will be the sectors of expenditure for the implementation of the strategy, she added.

She was speaking at a roundtable titled ‘National strategy for adolescent health (2017-30): Implementation progress and future plans’, held at Prorthom Alo office in Karwan Bazar of the capital on Wednesday.

Non-government organisation Reproductive Health Services Training and Education Programme (RHSTEP) and Prothom Alo jointly organised the roundtable.

Nurun Nahar Begum said that the age limit from 10 to 19 years is being given importance to in the strategy. But it won’t be of any use, if children of 5-10 years or other age group aren’t paid more attention. And those who will provide the children and adolescents with services have to bring changes in themselves.

Young people of this age group won’t comply or want to comply if they are given only advice on a certain topic. The service providers have to be sensitive towards the children and understand their needs, she added.

Speakers during the discussion said that there has been progress in different sectors including adolescents’ reproductive health and mental health. But to advance even more these adolescents have to be provided with the right information and counseling while reproductive healthcare has to be made easily accessible.

The programme has to be redesigned according to children and adolescents’ requirements. At the same time their participation in different activities has to be ensured as well. If young people of this age group aren’t paid attention, they will get involved in all sorts of activities including drug abuse. 

This will result in Bangladesh falling behind in various social indexes including prevention of child marriage and teen pregnancy, which will then obstruct the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

During the roundtable, programme manager for MCH services unit of the directorate general of family planning Md Manzur Hossain presented the keynote highlighting the overall situation of adolescents in the country.

He said that as many as 17 ministries are working with 30 million (3 crore) adolescents aged between 10 to 19 years.

Issues like reproductive health, mental health, violence prevention and nutrition have been prioritised in the national strategy for adolescent health. A total of 1,253 adolescent-friendly health service centres have been created in the country.

The number of people receiving services in these centres is on the rise.  But, it’s impossible for the government to provide services to this huge amount of population alone. There have to be coordinated initiatives on government and non-government levels

Health expert at the development partner wing of Sweden Embassy, Mohammad Zahirul Islam also emphasised on the issue of evaluation to determine on which stage the implementation of national strategy for adolescent health actually is.

Senior advisor (SRHR and gender) at the Netherlands Embassy, Mashfiqua Zaman Satiar stressed on the issue of information being reached to the adolescents. It would come to no use, if the information of healthcare centres being there does not reach them, she said.

Deputy programme manager at National Nutrition Services, Nandalal Sutradhar said that while the issue of adolescents’ health is given importance, the issue of their nutrition gets overlooked.

Associate professor at the public health and informatics department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Fariha Haseen emphasised on the issue of youth empowerment starting at home.

She said that parents’ participation in the activities has to be increased. Then the adolescents would be able to take various decisions. She also emphasised on the point that married adolescents aren’t excluded from the programme.

Programme analyst (adolescent and youth) for United Nations Population Fund in Bangladesh, Muhammad Munir Hussain said that unmarried adolescents are being prioritised right now. All the works done by the NGOs are either getting lost at the end of the project or the government is failing to move them forward.

As a result, many initiatives aren’t turning sustainable. He called for more attention towards the fact that no adolescents including disabled or transgender are left out of the programme.

Adolescent and youth specialist of the ‘USAID Shukhi Jibon’ project of pathfinder International, Fatema Shabnam said that sometimes different organisations or agencies work on the same aspect of adolescents’ reproductive and sexual health due to the lack of coordination.

National coordination (RHRN-2) at BRAC, Md Masudur Rahman called upon the NGOs to work more actively alongside the government. Their activities are being implemented in 10 different countries of the world and will continue till 2025, he added.

Deputy director (programme) of RHSTEP, Elvina Mustary said that while giving training we notice that most of the service providers on different levels including nurses do not have much idea about adolescents’ reproductive and sexual health.

She emphasised on having adolescent friendly infrastructure in providing services including counseling to adolescents. Because, they cannot or do not want to express their minds in any random environment.

Program head of BRAC’s SELP project Shashwatee Biplob, former UNICEF consultant Shamima Chowdhury, executive director of Abayab Nazia Zebin, founder and CEO of Ritu Sharmin Kabir, leader of RHRN-2, YPF project Shamayla Mahbub and coordinator of RHRN-2 project of Nagarik Uddyog Joyeeta Hossain also spoke during the round table.

Prothom Alo’s associate editor Abdul Quayum gave the welcome speech while RHSTEP executive director Quazi Suraiya Sultana thanked the guests. Prothom Alo’s assistant editor Firoz Choudhury moderated the roundtable.

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