Access to contraception and Adolescents’ Well-being

In many parts of the world, including Africa, adolescents are grappling with the physical and emotional transformations that usually accompany their change of status. Many of them are becoming sexually active at an earlier age more than ever before. Yet majority of adolescents lack proper access to information and services relating to their sexuality, especially with regard to contraceptionOver the years sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents have continued to be ignored or treated with levity. This in turn has led to unmet needs of adolescents’ sexual health needs. It is estimated that every year 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and 2 million girls aged under 15 years become pregnant in developing regions (Daroch et al 2016, UNFPA 2015). It has further been found that about 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and 2.5 million girls under age 16 years give birth in developing regions (UNFPA 2015). Many of these births occur due to the fact that adolescents lack access to comprehensive sexual health care services. The worldwide average rate for births per 1000 among young women in West Africa is put at about 115 compared to 45 and 7 in South-Eastern Asia and Eastern Asia respectively (UN DESA 2017)

Equally, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), excluding HIV/AIDS, are the second most important cause of loss of health in women especially young women (Glassier et al 2006) Adolescents remain particularly susceptible to sexual and reproductive health problems due to the fact that they often experience unexpected sex and find access to health services difficult. It is estimated that over 4 million unsafe abortions occur- especially among young women- in the region every year (Ahman and Shah 2002).  Yet many adolescents in developing countries lack access to contraceptive services

It should be noted that in the last 50 or more years efforts have been made to ensure that access to modern contraception for all women has moved from being merely a key element in primary health care services to being basic human rights of women. Thus, at several meetings and fora such as the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Beijing Platform of Action 1994 including their follow-up meetings (ICPD plus) it has been reiterated that couples and individuals have the right to freely and responsibly decide on matters related to their sexuality. Despite these developments, however, a significant number of adolescents in Africa still lack adequate access to contraceptive information and services. Read more

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