By Michael Olugbode
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a new activity designed to empower as many as two million young Nigerians with life skills and resources to realize their ambition.
A statement by USAID on Monday said the five-year, $15 million Youth-powered Ecosystem to Advance Urban Adolescent Health Project (Adolescent Health) will help teens access reproductive health services within a holistic context of youth empowerment.
It will be coupled with a deeper understanding of the challenges that adolescents face and implemented in Nigeria’s two largest cities, Lagos and Kano.
The statement quoted USAID Health Office Director Paul McDermott to have said: “By investing in youth, USAID is helping prepare the next generation to lead Nigeria to a more healthy and prosperous society.”
McDermott, who joined Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanaire at the virtual launch ceremony, said that “young people can make a strong contribution to a more productive and prosperous Nigeria if they are healthy and informed.”
The statement said Nigeria’s burgeoning urban youth population includes an increasingly marginalized segment of individuals– who might be out-of-school, unmarried, or poor. They are also vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies and face barriers to accessing reliable health information.
It said thus far, traditional programmes had struggled to meet these needs, noting that adolescent health will build a network of Youth Hubs to provide age-appropriate access to a host of services, and teach life skills, leadership, and work readiness.
It stressed that through partnerships with the private sector, the activity will connect adolescents to internships and employment opportunities.
It said: “The Hubs will provide safe spaces for adolescents to receive information and support to uptake reproductive health and improved behaviors through regular interventions, club meetings, youth-led events, groups, camps, and other community outreach and events.
“They will also improve access to counseling and referrals, youth-friendly health providers, gender-based violence services, substance abuse, and mental health programs. In addition, an associated Youth Advisory Council, composed of 60 percent girls, will provide insights and inputs to the Hubs, thereby developing their leadership and decision-making skills.”
Tobi Bakre, a 25-year-old reality star and Youth Ambassador for the new activity, was quoted to have said: “We must devise ways and mechanisms to continually improve the general health, skill acquisition and overall development of the Nigerian youth.”
He said: “I implore every Nigerian to get involved.”
According to the statement, the activity will be implemented by Development Alternatives Incorporated, in partnership with Grassroots Soccer, Women Friendly Initiative, Yellow Brick Road and the Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative