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Healthcare, Sports and Youth Development: Finding A Connection

Healthcare, Sports and Youth Development: Finding A Connection

Sep 14, 2020

One in every five African is a Nigerian. Blessed, or ‘cursed’ with a population of 206million people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. At least, 60% of Nigeria’s population is in the youth or adolescents age bracket. For a very young populace of great minds and lots of energy, healthcare delivery to most Nigerian youths is not optimal; it is at best, poor.

Many Nigerian adolescents and even youths are still dependent on other sources to feed and have the basic necessities of life. This automatically means many youths can’t access the appropriate healthcare services.

In Sagamu, Ogun State, a 15-year old girl, living in a one-room apartment with her mother and five siblings got into a sexual relationship with a man of over 40 years. Their relationship soon led to pregnancy, and the man refused to claim ownership. He walked scot-free. This meant that the poor girl had to deal with her situation all alone. With a poverty-stricken family, she hardly got the right medical care, as she laboured to make ends meet. On the day of her delivery, it was astonishing to see her just buy a pad or two, head to a midwife down the street, hid her pains as much as possible, and it was even greater shock to see her come back after some hours with a baby in hand, well wrapped in her little, trembling fingers. It was a sight to behold, and to many, she rode her luck.

Not so many adolescents get as lucky. Nigeria has an infant mortality rate of 54.7 in every 1000 births. A vast majority of these infant deaths are seen in first time mothers and usually, teenagers. The poor girl is one of many Nigerian adolescents who have no access to the right medical services and advice. There is no good sex education as poverty partly leads to their impressionable positions and puts them at risk of vicious men.

As poor adolescents get pregnant, many more under age deaths are recorded. Currently in Nigeria, there are 90.2 deaths of adolescents aged 5 or under in every 1000 births. These health gaps are leading to the checked development of the youth as other issues also add to the overall challenges being faced. In the North and some parts of southern Nigeria, young girls are married off to older men, who forcefully sleep with them, and leave them with Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF), a medical condition that leaves these girls losing control of urine. Many Nigerian youths are still living without the knowledge of the dangers of HIV, especially those in rural communities. Their youths and adolescents are still having unprotected sex, get pregnant for young men who can hardly earn a living, thereby subject themselves to impoverished lives.

There have been many programmes conducted on the teaching of proper sexual behaviours, with several organisations taking keen interest in local communities. While these have worked to a certain level, there is still a lot more enlightenment to do to people in younger age brackets. The biggest medical challenge being faced by a Nigerian youth now is the issue of mental health. A sane mind has boundless potential to achieve greatness, but with rising pressure and the infiltration of social media, youths and even adolescents have a weaker threshold. Suicide has become the order of the day, and the threat to the younger population is massive.

Families are not as strong again and this subjects youths to dealing with more problems on their own. Youths have also drastically dropped the exercise culture in Nigeria. While there are many who follow European football and American basketball leagues due to their popularity, there is lesser engagement in sporting activities. Adventures and desires have changed, and a lot more youth and adolescents now have different opinions about how their lives should be lived.

A visit to the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba Ibadan and some other street sports hangouts tells a tale of the current situation of the youth in sports engagement and the contribution to their health. Accountable Nigeria found out that in most of these areas where one sport or the other is ongoing, youths are visibly happier as they have less to think about. In the stadiums where there is more organisation, youths who were spoken to say they feel better when they engage in sporting activities. To them, it’s an opportunity to take their minds off their worries. They feel more elated in the stadium or on the pitch, and this makes them more consistent to sports and sanity.

There are also people who come to those places to see people do sports and this takes their minds off their worries. In no small ways, sports and regular exercise helps the mind stay stronger. It is a very veritable way to ensure a stronger mental health. The Nigerian youth is one that struggles hard to keep body and soul together and the reality on the streets are quite gloomy. At the behest of frustration, many resort to drug abuse. Peer pressure is another grave problem faced by youths in the country with the consequence of the abusive usage of codeine and others well documented in several parts of the country. On many occasions, these youths say they are trying to kill depression, which has been a major issue beleaguering Nigeria as a country. Youths abuse drugs to get high but the reality is they are at their lowest at that point.

 For a people whose future hinges greatly on its youth population, the younger generations are not just needed alive, they are needed with sane and sound minds. The Global Health Observatory puts the global age-standardised suicide rate at 11.4 per 100,000 people, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. Suicide and mental health have become a public health concern. The rate in Nigeria is put at 9.5/100,000. It has been strongly linked to depression, and also drug abuse, directly or in association with depression. The healthcare of these youths has a lot to be achieved when their minds are more hale. In Nigeria, the Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN the SURPIN has discovered that about one-fifth of suicide cases seen at its affiliated institution are those aged 13-19 years, and that over 50 per cent of the crisis calls received through its hotlines are from those aged 13- 29 years; 27.8 per cent were students.

These by every means are worrying details to note. To stimulate youths engagement, sports has to be returned to schools, and clubs and societies have to be returned for adolescent engagement. University undergraduates must be encouraged to show keen interest in developing their minds as that is a period where huge pressure is on their shoulders. The healthcare system should be improved to improve the lots of youths in Nigeria. Better mental awareness programmes should be inculcated into the healthcare sector as this has been necessitated by recent events. There is a lot to be achieved and the healthcare system must be used to prioritise youths, their future, and their sanity for the development of our society.