Action Health IncorporatedLagos, Nigeria
Published March 29, 2007
Protecting the sexual and reproductive health of young Nigerians
In a population experiencing significant rates of HIV and AIDS, nearly half of Nigeria’s teenagers are sexually active, and those between 20 and 24 have the highest HIV rates of any age group. Public officials, doctors, and health advocates throughout the West-African country are grappling with a persistently tricky question: What can be done to prevent young Nigerians from stumbling into the minefield of risky sexual activity?
A small group has become a sizable force in Nigeria’s national and regional efforts to tackle the issue. Since it was established in 1989, Action Health Incorporated and its partners have scored a number of impressive victories in the effort to increase and enhance sexuality and reproductive health education for young people in Nigeria.
It played a major role in the adoption of a national policy mandating universal access to sexuality education for young people in the school system. It is a key actor in the country’s quest to establish and implement the federal government’s Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education (FLHE) curriculum. And it helps spearhead implementation of that curriculum in more than 300 schools in the state of Lagos.
In short, Action Health has become a prominent voice for adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria, a country that is home to 1 in 6 Africans and whose influence extends across the continent.
Action Health employs a range of strategies to improve the health of Nigerian adolescents, including advocating for improved access to health care and education; working to educate policy makers, community leaders, trade unions, parents and youth on sexual and reproductive health issues; implementing an innovative peer education program; running youth-friendly clinical and referral services; promoting educational resources for youth health and development programming; and working with other youth-serving organizations and governments in underserved communities.
Action Health is considered to be at a critical moment in its work, as is Nigeria’s effort to improve education on sexual and reproductive health. The organization receives far more requests for help than it can now handle. Meanwhile, nationally, the FLHE curriculum has been implemented in only half of the country’s 36 states, hampered by inadequate teacher and student resource materials, limited partnership among key government agencies, and monitoring and evaluation challenges.
To address these challenges, the organization is establishing a residential training center, an education resource center, and new public education activities to share lessons from its work in Lagos and help inform and accelerate adoption of the federal curriculum in other Nigerian states. Its success has given Action Health the opportunity to help more state governments and NGOs improve sexuality and health education for adolescents, in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
Action Health will use its $500,000 MacArthur Award to establish a residential training center and library to enable it to increase the impact of its sexual and reproductive health education work.
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