24 January 1997

African Adolescent Health Network Created
from Peter Masebu; PANA staff correspondent

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PANA) - Gabon has been chosen as the temporary headquarters of an African Network for the promotion of adolescent and youth reproductive health.

The network was created here Friday by 500 delegates at the end of a five-day African forum on adolescent reproductive health.

In a declaration, the delegates said the network's objective would be to "promote the reproductive health of adolescents by mobilising youths around reproductive health programmes."

The declaration calls for the creation of national networks around such programmes, promotion of consultations and actions among youths in the field of reproductive health and their total involvement.

Governments, national, international and regional institutions have been urged "to support the activities of the network and work for the convening of the first council of national health coordinators."

Meanwhile, delegates have rated the conference as a major step towards measures to address the continent's rising youth reproductive health problems, including AIDS, early pregnancies, abortions and STD.

"The fact that so many people met and openly discussed these issues is a good foundation and a new hope has been born that on their return home, they would influence governments to deal with the problems," said Prof. Valentino Lema of Malawi University.

A Ugandan youth worker, Martin Wanda, said the participation of youths at the forum augured well for continuity in the field of adolescent reproductive health.

According to him, Ugandan delegates learnt a lot from the youth policies of other nations, like Ghana and Malawi. "This will be useful for us because currently we lack such a policy in Uganda," he said.

Wanda said the country was currently plagued by a myriad of adolescent health problems, including AIDS and STD, sexual harassment and the defilement of young girls by elderly persons.

Its adolescent health situation, he added, was also being aggravated by civil strife in the north and west, as well as by the flow of refugees from eastern Zaire.

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