Youth health-services in high demand in Ethiopia
The sound of teenagers laughing as they cheer on their friends in a heated table tennis match filters into the youth-friendly services room at the Arba Minch Health Centre, Ethiopia.
Inside the examination room, constructed by Christian Aid’s partner Amref-Heath Africa- Ethiopia, as part of the ASURE-Health project, Nurse Abebech Amare receives children and young people seeking health advice, including sexual and reproductive health services.
Located away from the main health centre buildings, it provides a welcoming environment where young people can seek help and support discreetly.
A young woman who has moved to Arba Minch to attend college is among the early morning clients seeking Abebech’s support.
This young lady came in today because she was feeling sick. I informed her that we have family planning services and contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives, and that she can get all of these for free.
Access to Free and Friendly Services
Arba Minch is the largest urban center in the four zones of southern Ethiopia where the EU funded ASURE-Health programme has been implemented for the past five years. The town is home to a rapidly growing youth population migrating from rural villages in search of education and work opportunities.
Navigating urban life away from their families poses many challenges including substance abuse, sexual violence and sexually transmitted diseases. Ensuring young people have access to free and friendly services including counselling and reproductive health care, is critical to achieving ASURE-Health’s objective to improve reproductive health and informed family planning choices.
As the young woman leaves to get her lab work done, one of the teenage boys who has been watching the game of table tennis knocks and enters the examination room. He gives Abebech the results for blood-work which have come back positive for malaria. She prescribes anti-malaria medication and provides further advice.
Health services in demand
Abebech explains that the number of young people attending the health center is rising, due to promotion in schools, through health extension workers, and also because of the friendly atmosphere. This is a big achievement for ASURE-Health, as previously young people often did not seek support, or travelled away from Arba Minch for fear of the stigma associated with accessing services.
As the five-year programme comes to an end, Abebech is already looking to the future. She is adamant that she will continue to provide the same level of services going forward, and is already planning outreach work in the community.
We need to go into schools and the community, because beyond providing health care services, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections continue to be major challenges. We see all these in this room’