DHAKA, May 22, 2020 (BSS)-As the nation grapples with health woes, health services which cater exclusively to the needs of adolescents are scanty and concentrated in urban areas.
A phase of rapid growth and development during which physical, physiological and behavioral changes occur is linked with core health issues as adolescents face multiple health problems.
These include mental health problems, early pregnancy and childbirth, violence, unintentional injuries, and malnutrition.
Despite facing many hurdles in making the country’s health sector a people-friendly area, the government, in association with UNICEF, came up with a scheme that promised to bring great relief to adolescents and came as a start of solution to paucity of adolescent health services.
The initiative, taken as a good omen for the health sector, has led to introduction of adolescent-friendly health services at Bhola Sadar Hospital, Upazila Health Complexes and Union Health Service Centers.
In the centers, the adolescents can avail different health services, including nutrition and reproductive health.
They can also seek advice on how to attend schools during menstruation known as a period. Besides, cleanliness, bad impacts of early marriage and other issues are being advised to adolescents.
With a large segment of adolescent population, Bangladesh stands to benefit socially, politically, economically if this large number of adolescents are safe, healthy, educated and equipped with information and lifestyle to support the country’s continued development.
It would not be an exaggeration to remind all that both adolescent girls and boys lack access to information on issues affecting their lives and have limited spaces to develop competences crucial for active participation.
The Awami League government is relentlessly working to reach the health services to the doorsteps of people.
To make the services affordable, the government is setting up many hospitals and health services centers across the country along with introducing community clinics.
Along with the Bangladesh government, different national and international non-government organizations (NGOs) are also working in the health sector.
Many adolescent boys and girls are seemingly getting benefits from the centers in Bhola.
Moreover, the Adolescent-Friendly Health Services is now becoming popular in different areas of this island district.
Munmun Khatun, a beneficiary of the services at Sadar Upazila Health Complex, said, “I was panicked during my period time.
I also didn’t go to school at that time of periods. I could not share this health issue with anybody even my mother. Later, one of my friends suggested me to go to a nearby center.
They gave me some advices. Now, I can attend my school regularly.
I’m happy now.”
Fifteen-year-old boy- Md Razib- said, “Earlier, I felt shy to talk to anyone.
I had no friends.
Even no one used to call me to play with them.
I was worried. My parents were also perturbed about my behavior. Later, I came to a health center with my mother.”
“In one month, I visited the center for around 21 days to seek advices.
Now, my behavior has almost changed.
I’ve now few friends in my locality and schools too,” he added.
Another beneficiary- Rupa Akther of the same upazila- said, “Few months back, one of my relatives brought a marriage proposal for me to my father.
He also agreed to marry me off as my father is the only earning member of his seven-member family.
He agreed to the proposal as he is a rickshaw puller. But I got panicked.
I want to continue my study.
Later, I decided to go to a center with one of my school friends for help.
They helped me a lot and also requested the local administration to stop my early marriage.
The administration had taken steps to this end.
Now, I’m continuing my study.”
Khadiza, one of supervisors of the centers, said around 10-15 girls are taking advices from each center every day.
Now the number of adolescent advice-seekers is increasing day by day.
“We advise them how to use sanitary napkins during periods, about the risk during adolescence period, nutrition, reproductive health and other issues what they require to listen,” she added.
Khadiza said the period of adolescence is most important for both boys and girls.
Therefore, the health centers are working to ensure better life for them.
In the first phase, the centers are introduced at three upazilas of the district.
Later, more centers will be opened at other upazilas of Bhola district.
Sources said the adolescent-friendly health services will be introduced at all health centers across the country in phases.
Critical game changers in leveraging the potential of adolescents in Bangladesh include postponing marriage, improving the health and nutritional status of adolescent girls, generating better education, skill development and work for adolescent girls and boys.