Read this article in: Français

MOZAMBIQUE: Youth health targeted

Photo: Ruth Ayisi/IRIN
Rosinha Carlos could have benefited from counselling
Zambezia, 28 October 2004 (PlusNews) - As HIV infection continues to climb among Mozambican youth, initiatives are underway to address their specific health concerns.

In Gurue, a picturesque town in the central province of Zambezia, 14 year-old Rosinha Carlos patiently waits to see a nurse at one of the Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) Clinics dotted around the country. Two years ago complications during childbirth led to deteriorating health, which forced her to abandon schooling. Her 24-year-old partner left her.

Following a 16-year civil war that devastated about 50 percent of health services, rebuilding an adequate healthcare system for Mozambique's 19 million people has proven a formidable challenge for the government. With close to 15 percent of the population living with the HI-virus, the AIDS epidemic is also threatening to reverse some of the meagre gains.

Providing healthcare to the youth has been even more difficult. Research shows that the young are more vulnerable to a myriad of sexually related health problems, and the situation is worsened by a lack of access to information.

In an effort to remedy this, the ministry of health has lobbied for the integration of youth-friendly clinics into local health posts across the country, to create a space where young people can access health services discreetly.

The youth-friendly clinics, supported by the UN Children's Fund and the UN Population Fund, have specially trained staff to address the needs of young people, and nurses work closely with peer educators and youth activists from schools and the local community.

The clinic is equipped with pamphlets, brochures, a television and video, so that young patients can watch films about reproductive health and HIV/AIDS while they wait.

In Gurue, UNFPA and PathFinder International, a reproductive health organisation, support a programme called Geracao Biz (the busy generation). The programme encourages pupils and teachers to become activists linked to the clinic.

Armando Impungo, a teacher who has been trained as an activist, explained that students with excellent communication skills and a solid academic record are chosen for training. The pupils then offer their peers advice, including how to recognise sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Impungo told PlusNews the programme had had a major impact on his school. "In the beginning few pupils volunteered to be activists - now it is difficult to select, as so many want to become activists," he said. "Before, students and teachers wouldn't talk about sex, but now they do."

Lourdes Baine, head nurse at the YFHS in Gurue, remarked that the clinic had become popular, especially among male students.

Between January and July this year 384 young people, mostly from local schools, had sought advice from the service. Boys wanted advice about STDs, while girls tended to enquire about family planning. So far, the youth-friendly clinic in Gurue has treated 194 boys and 34 girls for STDs.

Rosinha fell pregnant before the start of the youth-friendly clinic. "I didn't know how to prevent my pregnancy," she said. "There was no counselling at the time."

Asked what she thought about the future, Rosinha told PlusNews: "I want to get better, and then I would like to go back to school. I liked to write and my friends are still at school."

Theme (s): Children,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC