Expanding access to adolescent and youth Friendly Sexual and Reproductive health Services in the Northwest Region of Cameroon: RuWCED-Cameroon Equips Health Care Providers and facilities to creating Adolescent/Youth Wards
“Adolescents/youths in Ngoketunjia Division of Cameroon now have access to trained health care professionals and fully equipped youth friendly wards called Adolescent Care and Counseling Center (ACCC) in five pilot Health centers in the Division to carter for the Sexual and Reproductive Health service needs”
A Cross Section of an Adolescent/Youth Ward set up by RuWCED Cameroon
The Rural Women Center for Education and Development (RuWCED) has in a three-day workshop, trained health workers on youth and adolescent friendly approaches to delivering Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services. The training from 6th to 8th December 2022 took place in Ndop, Ngoketunjia Division, Northwest Region, Cameroon during which health care providers from all thirteen villages in Ngoketunjia were empowered. The training also focused on creating an Adolescent Care and Counseling Center (ACCC) in pilot centers in the Division.
RuWCED organized the training in response to challenges in accessing rights based SRH services faced by adolescents and youths in Ngoketunjia Division, identified during prior projects on SRHR which they have implemented over the years. At the workshop, Samuel Leboh the Coordinator of the current project pointed that five major factors among others are responsible for failure of adolescents in accessing health services which are; lack of knowledge about availability of services and means of access, social and cultural deterrents, perceived lack of privacy or confidentiality, expensive services including difficulties to access those services, and unfriendly attitude of Health Care Providers. “It is in this context that RuWCED is launching a program on Adolescent/Youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services and rights towards establishing Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics (AFHC) in pilot centers in Ndop. The aim is to provide clinical and counseling services to adolescents and youths by improving quality of care in the existing health system through training of existing staff, introduction of counselors, provision of commodities and ensuring that existing facilities are equipped to accommodate and provide adolescent/youth friendly health services.” He said.
In the course of the training, facilitators stressed on the fact that adolescents have special needs by virtue of the many physical and emotional changes happening to them (according to the psychologist Erik Erikson, adolescence is a time when they struggle between “Identity vs. Role Confusion in Psychosocial Development”. They are at a stage of psychological and physiological development stages and this requires patience and special skills to engage with them in meaningful conversations towards providing them adequate and appropriate SRH services. The workshop lectured health care providers on ways to handle youths when it comes to sexual and reproductive health including what adolescent/youth friendly services comprise, value clarification and attitude transformation in rendering adolescent SRH Services, increasing both clinical and counseling knowledge on normal adolescent development, and reception and confidentiality in attending to Adolescents.
Youth/Adolescent educators with equipment received from RuWCED
Equipment including hospital beds and smart TVs were handed to the 5-pilot adolescent/youth centers at the end of the program, to equip them to make the environment conducive and youth friendly for the adolescents. The equipment would be placed at the ACCC pilot centers where adolescents and youths now have access to trained health care providers who understand their differentiated specificities in terms of sexual and reproductive health services needs toward the provision of stigma free, non-judgmental adolescent and youth friendly SRH services. The health care providers present were elated to receive the package and many of them expressed appreciation for the initiative and how this would help the adolescents in their communities.
Adolescent Care and Counseling Center (ACCC) in Babessi, Ngoketunjia
Tata Elizabeth Mungfu, a nurse at the Ndop District Hospital in charge of pediatrics and adolescent shared that the initiative is a unique and sustainable one that would bless many generations to come. “This initiative will go a long way to empower youths sexually and will groom them as well, because the adolescent stage is one of the most difficult stages in life where by when you miss it, you will not be able to meet up with many tasks as far as adulthood is concerned. What makes it even more unique is the fact that, it doesn’t concentrate on the youth alone but also on health care providers like me and some of the things we do not take serious like confidentiality and our unfriendly attitude. From all what I have learned, I would immediately start working on those aspects which I was not handling well as a health care provider and I will ensure that back at my duty post, I will call out any other health care provider defaulting.”
Nsen Felicitas Che is the Chief of Center at the Babungo Integrated Health Center. She appreciated the training, saying it was very necessary as it addressed and called attention to issues that health care providers often do ignorantly. “I did not know adolescents had issues that needed our attention but from this meeting of today, I know that any time an adolescent comes for consultation at the health center, I need to pay extra attention and treat them with care and patience. They have many issues that needs to be address and from this training of today, I believe I am going back well-armed to address those issues.”
Health Care Providers reflecting on quality of care in adolescents/youths friendly SRH service delivery
RuWCED has impacted the lives of thousands through several previous projects thus participants of this training some of whom were equally part of the previous projects were hopeful that huge successes would be recorded with this project which is to run for 3 years and that the just disseminated knowledge on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights friendly methods will greatly improve service provision not just at the Adolescent Care and Counseling Centers but also at the hospitals as well.