Inadequate health data affecting the voice of young people

  • Youth Workshop GFF Nigeria
    Oyeyemi Pitan and Adaji Rosemary visit FCT HMIS Officer and Assistant
Young persons in Nigeria are often excluded from the nation’s health and developmental policy-making processes and programs. From issues on gender mainstreaming to equity and inclusion; young people are usually not involved in decision making. Also, many youths do not have a clear understanding of the problems that affect their health. This is buttressed by the pervading general lack of trust in those with the power to make decisions.

Authors: Umar I. Bolaji, Oyeyemi Pitan, RoseMary Adejoh and Esther Agbon

As a result of the lack of young people between 10-25 years old, policies and programs are often not responsive to their needs, leaving them unable to reach their full potential. In turn, the lack of inclusion has continued to affect the sense of ownership by this important group, of their own health, ownership of responses to health and other pertinent issues that directly affect them.

Seeing the need to improve adolescent participation in reproductive health through evidence-based decision making and planning, Evidence for Action - MamaYe (E4A-MamaYe), a programme managed by Options Consultancy in collaboration with the Africa Health Budget Network and the Africa Youth representative on the Investors Group held a 2-day capacity building workshop on Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights for the Youth Coalition on Global Financing Facility (GFF) in Nigeria.

The GFF seeks to end preventable maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent deaths; and improve the health, nutrition, and well-being of women, adolescents, and children by 2030. Nigeria is one of the 36 countries currently accessing the funds. The GFF provides an opportunity for the use of catalytic funds for cost-effective interventions that can be readily scaled up. Established in 2015, the fund aims to address the shortfalls in reproductive maternal, newborn child, and adolescent health and nutrition (RMNCAH -N) financing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Over 20 active youths participated in the training during which they analyzed the RMNCAH investment Case through a political economy lens. The training equipped young persons with the skills to develop an advocacy plan and identify indicators to monitor the performance of adolescent youth reproductive health performance across states and at the Federal level.

Following the training the coalition agreed to assign roles with representatives of youth coalitions including Novelle Association for Youth Advocacy (NAYA) supported by Women Friendly Initiative, Nigeria Youth Champions for Universal Health Coverage (NYC4UHC) and Education as a Vaccine (EVA) led data gathering for scorecard development and advocacy at the Federal level.  Save the Future of Children Initiative (SAFIN), was selected to lead the scorecard development. They decided to advocate for a budget line to fund comprehensive youth-friendly health services and to increase access of adolescent and young persons to such services with 20% of Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities in Kwara State.

We have decided to advocate on the gaps identified in the data; all frontline officers that will use the NHMIS should be trained on the immediate use of the tools. We are currently modifying our workplan to see what we can implement despite this setback

The youth representatives rapidly ran into challenges: extracting data for the required age group had to be stalled. When asked, Bolaji Umar, the SAFIN representative says. This is due to the unavailability of data that directly speak to the targeted age group of 10-24 years. Data is collected in the state with the Health Management Information System tool version 2013 and this version of the HMIS does not disaggregate data into adolescent age of 10-14 years, and young person’s age of 15-24 years but rather has a lumped age group of 15-49 years”

This experience is not an isolated one as the same applies at the federal level and at the Federal Administrative Capital (FCT) says Rose Mary Adejoh, the representative from NAYA. We were informed that the demographic health information system has not been upgraded to reflect the newest version of Nigeria Health Management Information System (NHMIS 2019). The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the implementation of the tools that enable data disaggregation by age, which are yet to be fully distributed across the states and health workers have not been trained on the use of the tool.

The lack of data presents a huge gap that needs to be urgently addressed by the government and has implications on the use of evidence for planning among the adolescent age group in Nigeria.

With all these findings, the Federal Ministry of Health should do the needful by configuring all states of the federation on a newer DHIS platform and ensure the availability of adequate reporting tools.

“We have decided to advocate on the gaps identified in the data; all frontline officers that will use the NHMIS should be trained on the immediate use of the tools. We are currently modifying our workplan to see what we can implement despite this setback” says Oyeyemi Pitan of NYC4UHC.

Nigeria launched the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent and Elderly Health plus Nutrition (RMNCAEH+N) Multi-Stakeholder partnership forum to address the gaps in achieving effective overall coordination of RMNCAEH+N issues on the 12th of October 2020. E4A and AHBN are collaborating to ensure the youths are appropriately represented as the platform presents an opportunity for organized youth to be involved in decision making, with relative success: two seats have been provided for youths and CSOs respectively on the platform.

Nigerian youths are ready for meaningful engagement and participation in improving adolescent health programming in Nigeria and the world at large.

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