By Christian Njoku
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has decried the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Cross River put at 17 per cent.
Mr Kenneth Ehouzou, the Head of UNFPA office in Cross River, gave the figure at an event organised to mark the 2018 International Day of the Girl Child in Calabar on Tuesday.
He said the statistics was from a National Demographic Health Survey carried out in 2013, adding that the prevalence of HIV and AIDS was also high among young people in the state.
” What this kind of awareness programme does is to sensitise girls on the ability to negotiate what they want when they are approached and also teach them menstrual health,” he said.
Ehouzou advised girls to avoid teenage pregnancy and know their body, stressing that getting pregnant could hamper their education and future.
” Speak to your peers about the effects of teenage pregnancy and find time to visit the Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit at the General Hospital to get information on reproductive health and family planning,” he said.
Cross River Commissioner for Health, Dr Inyang Asibong, said the state government was trying to ensure that safe spaces were always created for teenagers.
She said the state government was collaborating with UNFPA to ensure that the mandate of maternal and adolescent care was assured.
The Country Programme Director, Aids Healthcare Foundation Nigeria, Dr Echey Ijezie, said the foundation was looking at ways to empower the girl child by giving her a voice, improving her negotiation skills and enhancing their menstrual hygiene.
” In our culture, the girl tends not to have a voice, we want to change that culture, we want to help these girls to speak for themselves as it concerns their everyday life.
” We want to ensure that wherever girls are, they are able to discuss issues eloquently and be proud of being girls.
” We have officials on ground to make sure that whatever programmes we roll out are effectively monitored and evaluated to ensure effectiveness,” he said.
The event, which featured presentation of gifts to students who won the essay competition, titled Safe Spaces for the Youth, also featured presentation of sanitary pads to girls in secondary schools.
The International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated annually on Oct. 11, 2018.