The new National Youth Friendly Health Services Strategy report for 2015-2020 has revealed poor utilisation of Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS), with only 13 percent of the youthful population under the age of 25 ever using them and only 31.7 percent having heard of the same.
The report was presented to development partners, including civil society organisations (CSOs) in Blantyre on September 8, 2015 by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in conjunction with Population Reference Bureau (PRB).
It has been developed and released in the context of the findings and recommendations of the YFHS programme evaluation study (2013-2014) carried out by MoH’s Reproductive Health Directorate (RHD) with assistance from the US Agency for International Development (USAid)-supported Evidence to Action Project and Centre for Social Concern, University of Malawi.
The report further indicates that early sexual debut continues to persevere with 20.3 percent of boys and 5.3 percent of girls having had sex by the age of 10. This contributed to the soaring school drop-out rates among adolescent girls (two in every seven girls in primary school-EMIS, 2013) due to unintended pregnancies and early and child marriages.
The absence of quality of YFHS that provide young people with information and services resulted in poor comprehensive information on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Fewer than half (42 percent) of young women and 45 percent of young men aged between 14 and 24 fully understand concepts of HIV/Aids. The report reveals there are 3 200 new HIV infections annually among young people aged between 14 and 19. While there is progress in curtailing the prevalence of HIV among youths, the occurrence is still higher among females than males (12.9 percent and 8.1 percent respectively).
The report says the majority of young people in Malawi experience unmet needs for contraceptives as only 31 percent of females who had a child reported that they did not want the pregnancy and 9.3 percent would have wanted to wait until a later time.
On a sad note, there are high rates of drug and alcohol abuse among Malawian youths as 50 percent of the recorded drug and alcohol related cases that come before the courts involved young people.
Speaking during the meeting, PRB country coordinator Sandra Mapemba warned of population related drastic consequences that will bruise Malawi if the issue of YFHS is overlooked.