By Yohane Symon & Richard Chirombo:
Girls have bemoaned poor access to sexual reproductive health services in rural areas of the country.
They raised the sentiments during the Annual Girls Conference which Plan Malawi and its partners organised in Mangochi District. Plan Malawi is working with Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Family Planning Association of Malawi and Ameref Health Africa.
“Girls in rural areas do not have access to youth-friendly services, resulting in increased cases of early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and other challenges. The Ministry of Health and Population should work on this,” said Emily Mzeremu.
On her part, Ruth Chimbalanga said health officials should also consider reducing the distance between residential areas and health centres to promote access to health goals world leaders set as one way of ridding the world of health challenges that negatively affect national development.
Machinga Youth Friendly Services Coordinator, Chikondi Milanzi, said it is important that youths should have access to health services.
“We, at Machinga District Hospital, will continue to engage our partners on this issue. Specifically, we want to have designated places dedicated to addressing the health needs of youths,” Milanzi said.
Jordawe Khuzeni, who is project officer for Yes I Do Project under Plan Malawi, said 21 percent of girls below the age of 15 years have been involved in early marriage while 64.7 percent of girls between 15 and 18 years have ever been married or are married.
“Through the Yes I Do project which we are implementing in Machinga, we are working with girls as champions of change both at community and in schools. We want to delay girls from indulging in sexual activities while still young,” Khuzeni said.
Meanwhile, one of the non-governmental organisations working on youth empowerment, People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Pefenap, has urged youths to take part in development efforts, instead of waiting for the government to construct health facilities.
“The youth should participate in the construction of health facilities, monitor the use of medical drugs in health facilities, be part of health committees and fight for their health rights; that is what we call responsible citizenship,” said Pefenap Executive Director, Edward Chaka, when the organisation distributed Youth Empowerment Manuals to Southern Region youths in Balaka District on Friday.
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