Category: News

The mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, lock down and social distancing among health workers and others.

 

‘As a young person with goals and aspirations set at the beginning of the year I never imagined that a time will come when I will not be able to leave my house-This still seems like a dream  I am yet to wake up from’

Elizabeth Talatu, SRHR youth advocate

This is the story of many young persons during this period of the pandemic

The Pandemic took the world by surprise, but what has been different is the ways countries have responded to it. Young people constitute 18 billion of world’s population and 90% live in developing countries. 

What has posed challenges in handling the pandemic?

Young people in Nigeria were never exposed to online learning. The worse hit are people in the rural communities-during this period young people especially in Northern Nigeria and states such as Bornu where insurgents have destroyed livelihoods have been cut off from learning. Kano state and indeed many other states in Nigeria have no portable water, washing of hands is even a challenge.

A few sexual and reproductive health and rights youth friendly facilities have been shut down. The new focus is on how to end the covid-19, with total neglect of the SRHR needs of young people.  During this period two adolescent girls reported to Vision Spring Initiatives that they are pregnant and only got to know during the lock down. There must be other cases of unplanned pregnancies. There is acute shortage of SRHR services. Many aspects of lives have been brought to a halt!

There has been increased incidence of gender based violence. Many Women and girls are locked down at home with perpetrators; husbands, brothers, neighbours and boyfriends.  There is currently no means of accessing the few shelters around Nigeria due to the difficulty and imposition of lock down and the fear of infecting those at the facilities. Perpetrators cannot be taken to police stations due to lock down. Life practically came to a halt. The statement by the president on distribution of palliatives mentioned 30% for widows, 30% for single mothers, 30% for persons with disabilities and 10% for all other categories of citizens; unfortunately young people who might become sex objects during food shortage were not taken into consideration.

Many civil society organisations that can move around and respond to cases of violence against women or offer basic mediation roles were not issued with government authorised passes to facilitate movement and intervention. 

What should be done moving forward?

The sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of young people must be prioritized. There must be knowledge building that emphasizes self-care and access to youth friendly centres with adequate instructions on how to stay safe-a number of civil societies provide robust SRHR services in the country and can function effectively during lock down with adequate information and guidance.

Nigeria must begin to focus on and leverage on-line learning as a means of ensuring that communities are not cut off during emergencies such as the one presented by Covid-19. Radio and television must become new ways of learning. This can only be made possible by uninterrupted electricity supply to ensure that homes in rural areas benefit.

Civil society organisations working with agencies such as the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team of the Ministry of Justice should be issued passes (government movement authorisation) to enable them perform their role of responding to survivors of violence. 

There is an urgent need for census. The UN’s estimate of Nigeria at 200 million is not enough. The real population of Nigeria must be ascertained to enable adequate planning. This will be followed by development of social register in all states to determine how many Nigerians are living with disabilities, how many are widow/widowers, how many are out of job, how many are in the formal and informal sector.

Funding support received during the Pandemic should be transparently utilised so as not to leave room for speculation; this can be achieved through setting up a monitoring agency to monitor spending. 

Young people such as youth coppers and other groups within religious spaces should be part of government planning Committee during emergencies and on all other situations that might affect their well-being.  

Private sector should be more involved; telecommunication companies, Cable TV providers   Media outlets, banks, and others should contribute towards helping alleviate the sufferings of the populace.

 Civil society groups, faith based groups and others in humanitarian service should partner with government in tackling challenges posed by the pandemic. 

 

Contributed By:

Ngozi Nwosu-Juba 

Project Director, Vision Spring Initiatives. 

 

VISION SPRING INITIATIVES CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2020

 

“Reproductive freedom is critical to a whole range of issues. If young people cannot take charge of the most personal aspects of our lives, they cannot take care of anything. It should not be seen as a privilege or a benefit, but as a fundamental human right”. 

These are the words of feminist activist, Faye Wattleton, best known for her contributions to the family planning and reproductive health.

As we mark the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020 with the theme: I am Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights. Vision Spring Initiatives is partneried with Spring Up Academy High School to build knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights. A total of forty (40) young persons aged 13-18 benefitted. We are using the opportunity to demand the realisation of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. The International women’s day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. In September 2019, the government signed the Universal Health Coverage. The Universal Health Coverage provides a unique opportunity to address the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Nigeria.  We therefore call on the government to:

1. Empower young people including medical students on the Universal Health Coverage; make them part of the work force. Currently medical work force constitute 70% women-their capacities need to be built to effectively provide services that are youth friendly.

2. Ensure inter-sectionality and respond to needs of marginalised persons; provide adequate information infrastructure for all in the spirit of leaving no one behind.

3. Ensure inclusive budgeting that takes into account the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

4. Protect, respect right to health repeal laws and provide affordable health services SRHR and contraceptives and care.

5. Invest in power of the young generation from planning to end.

VISION SPRING INITIATIVES’ NATIONAL TRIBUNAL/DIALOGUE ON TACKLING UNSAFE ABORTION IN NIGERIA.

Panelists at the Tribunal Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, Project Director, VSI addressing participants Nigeria has the third highest infant mortality in the world and also the largest contributor to global mortality rate. The rates are high not because diseases leading to death cannot be cured or prevented. Women and girls are dying from preventable and treatable sexual health complications as a result of entrenched resistance to women’s autonomy and control over their bodies. This is often justified on the basis of culture and/ or religion. Poor health care systems and weak policy implementation add to women’s risk of death. 

The recently released National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2018 data in the country states that unmet need for family planning declined from 20% in 2008, 16% in 2013 before increasing to 19% in 2018. 10% of maternal deaths in Nigeria are due to unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion is restricted in Nigeria. A 2015 national study of abortion incidences in Nigeria reveals the challenges that remain to improve conditions for Nigerian women and girls. Only 16% of all women of reproductive age use any contraceptives and an even lower percentage of 11% use a modern method, which results in almost 10 million unintended pregnancies, of which more than half end in an induced abortion. 

Young women in Nigeria are faced with many health challenges which hamper their growth and progress; one such issue that is standing in the way of girls’ progress is unsafe abortion! The data is daunting, according to World Health Organisation (WHO), unsafe abortion continues to be a public health crisis and one of the largest contributors of maternal mortality and morbidity in Africa, accounting for up to 30% of maternal deaths in many Sub-Saharan countries. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 6 million unsafe abortions occur in Africa resulting in 29,000 deaths and countless serious injuries and disabilities every year for poor, mostly rural based African women and girls under age 25. 

Unsafe abortion is a major contributor to Nigeria’s high levels of maternal death, I’ll health and disability. Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world and little improvement has occurred in recent years. The current ratio of 575 to 100,000 live births remain a source of concern especially with the poor implementation of the National Health Act, alongside issues of accessibility, affordability, availability and quality of health care which remains critical in maternal health services in the country. 

The slogan of leaving no one behind and the commitment in the newly adopted Universal Health Coverage Declaration CAN only be achieved if government Health plan targets those in the most need of it; women and girls. There is need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and Reproductive Health information, education, including services. Central to women and girls health and well being is the realization of their human rights, including their sexual and Reproductive rights.

Vision Spring Initiatives and other partners are working to empower women and girls, raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent sexual violence, unsafe abortion, and mobilising communities against all forms of stigma! 

It is in this light that Vision Spring Initiatives held a Mock Tribunal/Dialogue Tackling Unsafe Abortion  in Nigeria on November 5-7, 2019 at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja. The Tribunal convened a wide and representative array of CSOs, medical personnel, lawyers, media personnel, religious leaders and health practitioners. 

The panelists discussion centred around increasing awareness by enhancing public education of the SRHR needs of girls aged 18-24 and partnership with law makers, religious and traditional leaders and media towards change in social norms. The discussion also strengthened further into analysing ways to break the silence on SRHR issues in Nigeria and gain commitment for the implementation of the Universal Health Coverage Declaration. 

At the end of the Tribunal, a report was documented with key recommendations and SRHR priorities that will be shared with relevant agencies for further intervention on SRHR engagements.

Vision Spring Initiatives’ Partnership with North East Regional Initiative On Peace Building.

Vision Spring Initiative since March 2019 through consultancy services is partnering with North East Regional Initiative (NERI) on a USAID funded project to support ending violent extremist attacks in Bornu and Adamawa states. In Northern Nigeria, women and girls are being exposed under a terrible system of marginalization. They struggle economically and socially through many traditions and cultural practices, not given the opportunity to contribute to many mainstream societal processes ranging from peacebuilding, health, education, politics, and economic ventures

With the ongoing insurgency, the condition of community women here can best be described as pathetic and unfortunate. They are fenced out of basic community peacebuilding processes and encumbered with the need to provide shelter and care for the household.

This Political, Social and Economic insecurities has been a major portal through which ISIS-WA have forced some vulnerable women to become suicide bomb machinery and suppliers of logistics fueling the insurgency. The role of women in building peace has been undermined; their voices has been muted by pre-existing traditions and the raging insurgency. We are excited to be partnering with NERI towards changing this narrative. 

 

VISION SPRING INITIATIVES CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2018!

Unsafe abortions are one of the most significant and preventable contributions of maternal mortality and morbidity in Nigeria. Research carried out by the Guttmacher Institute in partnership with the university of Ibadan, reported that 1.25 million induced abortions occurred in 2012 alone. On the other hand, evidence from a consultant OB/GYN at the University Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada reported that unsafe abortions contribute to at least 13% of maternal deaths in the country yearly. He also reported that over 450,000 unsafe abortions were carried out yearly in Nigeria.

media personality from the Nation Newspaper asking a question

In the light of this discovery, vision spring initiative and the beneficiaries of its Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) training launched the #mybodymyright on the 8th of March, to commemorate the international women’s’ day celebration. We had two print media teams and one radio media present.

We had the honour of having the Chairman of Nigerian Union Journalists (NUJ), Dr. Qasim Akinreti. In his words he said womanhood is our pride. He salutes our courage and steadfastness in the pursuit of eradicating ancient laws that has handicapped our progress in the area of sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls in our country. He promised to partner with us to ensure the #mybodymyright reaches a wider range of girls and women in the country.

The press release statement was read by Imisi Johnson, one of the SRHR beneficiaries, she stated clearly the demands the campaign centres on and what is expected from the government after the campaign. Few of demands included:

  • Improved access to safe SRHR services by removing legal restrictions and ensuring that services are safe and accessible to all women who need them in a timely manner.
  • Address in a systematic way the various forms of abuse faced by the adolescent girl in the home and society.

Vision Spring Initiatives visits service delivery sites on the global fund project

Medical staff at Epe General Hospital explains their services to VSI staff
  • Vision Spring Initiatives partnering with POSITIVE ACTION FOR TREATMENT ACCESS and others visited a total of four (4) health service centres toward ensuring that robust services are provided to service recipients. Some of the services received at the centres visited include: Family planning, HIV Counselling and Testing, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, Counselling, TB treatment (DOT). Facilities visited include Onigbongbo LCDA, Oregun LCDA and General Hospital Epe. Some of the successes of the services provided as recorded by our staff include:
  • have strong referral system, treat all cases from other smaller units
  • Have record of all cases treated and registered monthly, sex and age disaggregated
  • Patients attended to timely and in a professional manner
  • Provide robust VCT services
  • Follow up with patients
  • Training beneficiaries are staff of the centre, so sustainability is ensured.

Some of the challenges recorded included the following:

  • Lack of drugs; there is constant drug stock out
  • Follow up is a challenge, there is high migration of patients
  • The protocol and processes before drugs are procured is worrisome
  • The current funding does not cover support group.

Capacity strengthening of 15 nascent CBOs in Lagos, Oyo, Enugu, Anambra and Imo states

Project Director of VSI explaining a point during one of the trainings in Ibadan Oyo state.

From February to November 2017, Vision Spring Initiative through consultancies built the capacity of 15 nascent CBOS on proposal Writing, governance, Safety and Security, Human Rights Education and Resource Mobilisation. These trainings were geared towards building the capacities of these organisations to support service delivery to its constituencies under the Global Fund new Funding Model.

Group exercise by participants during the governance training.

Vision Spring Initiatives hosts ending abortion stigma event in Lagos Nigeria

The goal of the project was to enhance beneficiary’s capacity on SRHR decision making and subsequently become advocates on SRHR issues at their various areas of influence.

The objective of the project which was collation of entries, award ceremony and training on ending unsafe abortion include the following:

● Promote sexual and reproductive health knowledge amongst adolescents aged 18-24.
● Partner with adolescents to end all forms of abortion stigma
● Create awareness on the challenges of unsafe abortion and build capacity and knowledge of beneficiaries to reach out to peers
● Enhance capacity of young persons to commence advocacy for repeal of negative abortion laws in partnership with Vision Spring Initiatives
● Increase knowledge on safer sex practices which will ultimately be stepped down to other adolescents, leading to reduced unsafe abortion and stigma.

VSI awards price to Tobi, best essay writer to end abortion stigma in Nigeria

Our greatest lesson was the desire of young people to be equipped with information. During the award ceremony, we had to spend extra two hours responding to SRHR needs of young people. We also realized that young people have been socialized to think that abortion stigma is necessary to stop young people from engaging in abortion.

Temidayo, a fresh student at University of Lagos wins the 3rd price to become an intern with Vision Spring Initiatives.

We are planning to make the event either a yearly or biennial event. The first prize of laptop computer was won by an undergraduate of Yaba College of Technology who is very excited to own a laptop computer to facilitate her course work. The second prize winner is a youth activist is really excited, while the third winner is a fresh undergraduate of University of Lagos and currently interning with the organisation. We will like to be able to do more in the coming year and keep building knowledge on safe abortion and how girls can support themselves instead of stigma.

Second price went to Josephine Aseme, a youth activist and Executive Director of Executive Director, Greater Women Initiative for Health and Right{GWIHR}. Here Ese receives the award on her behalf.

Poem by Tobi-First prize winner
I am unashamed:By Oluwatobi Ayodele
I am unashamed
I am uncompromising
I am bold
I am compassionate

I care for myself
I care for my health
I care for my future
I care for my family!

I walk out fearless
Fearless of the discrimination
Fearless of the hate
Fearless of the stigma!

Stigma that comes before abortion
Stigma that comes after abortion
Stigma that comes the month after and the year after
Stigma that stays for life!

But do you know I am a woman as you are?
That I have rights as you do?
That I have beliefs as you do?
That I have a future as you do?

And I need support not shame
I need comfort not comments
I need love not rejection
I need understanding not judgements!

And that abortion is safe
And it doesn’t make me less feminine
That abortion is clean and healthy
And it should be legalized not stigmatised!

Enough of the stigma!
Enough of the discrimination!
Enough of the negativity!
Enough of the hate!

Award winners celebrate with friends and well-wishers at the end of the ceremony which took place at Citi height Hotel, Ikeja Lagos Nigeria.

I stand to raise awareness of our rights and advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies to legalize abortion in our country and mobilising girls and women against all forms of stigma!!!