Lack of funding affecting adolescent health promotion - GHS

BY: Mary Anane-Amponsah & Abigail Duodu
Sherifa Mohammed (left), Programme Officer, Technical and Adolescent Health Communication, Ghana Health Service, addressing the participants. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo
Sherifa Mohammed (left), Programme Officer, Technical and Adolescent Health Communication, Ghana Health Service, addressing the participants. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo

Lack of funding is denying a significant number of adolescents in the country the needed interventions to deal with challenges affecting their sexual reproductive health, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has said.

Although the GHS has the mandate to provide accurate health information and comprehensive health services for young people, it is unable to do so due to lack of both internal and external funding.

The Programmes Officer, Technical and Adolescent Health Communication of GHS, Sherifa Mohammed, has therefore, called for the establishment of a resource mobilisation plan for such interventions for young girls.

She was making a presentation at a workshop on the Economics of adolescent sexual and reproductive health (EcASaRH) interventions in the country.

The workshop, organised by the African Health Economics and Policy Association (AfHEA), was in line with adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) interventions in the country aimed at identifying and costing priority ASRH programmes to support advocacy for more resources.

In attendance were stakeholders from the Ministry of Health (MoH), the GHS, the UNFPA, UNICEF and researchers.

Among issues discussed were costing and validating reports of EcASaRH projects.

The AfHEA, which is the professional body of health economists and policy makers in Africa, was established in Accra in 2009 to strengthen and improve efficiency in health systems.

Ms Mohammed said since 2018, the GHS had not been able to reach out to many young girls with interventions, such as education on sexual and reproductive health and access to support (family planning and contraceptives), as expected.

“The unmet need for contraception for married and unmarried girls aged 15-19 years stands at 36 and 61 per cent, respectively.

“Among married adolescent girls of 15-19 years, 96.5 per cent have heard of a contraceptive method but usage is very low due to their inability to access support,” she added.

The Principal Investigator of the project, Dr Ama Pokuaa Fenny, said it was a multi-country programme involving Ghana and Senegal, with funding from an international development research centre.

She said until 2021, the major programmes that received ASRH funding in the country were capacity building on ASRH and adolescent empowerment through comprehensive sexuality education.

Policy development

The acting Head of the Quality Management Unit of the MoH, Dr Selina Dussey, said the country had, over the years, made some efforts to advance the cause of ASRH in the core health delivery structure.

For instance, she said, the National Population Council (NPC) led in the development of an adolescent reproductive health policy, together with other stakeholders, which provided broad guidelines for the implementation of ASRH programmes and policies.

“Currently, a new broad strategy has been developed under the Ghana Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition Strategic Plan (2020-20250).

“All these have contributed significantly to the improvement in ASRH in the country over the years,” Dr Dussey said.

Teenage pregnancy

A Programme Analyst of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Ishmael Kwesi Selassie, said issues concerning high numbers of adolescent pregnancy were a major worry to the organisation because it had implications on the overall economic output of the country.

“We are working in different parts of the country to prevent child marriage and also help safeguard the rights of young adolescent people,” he added.

For her part, the Executive Director of the NPC, Dr Leticia Appiah, underlined the need to develop actionable plans for the welfare of adolescents.