Telling the story of the need to prioritise adolescent sexual and reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from EcASaRH research project

Adolescents comprise a sizeable proportion of the population in many countries in Africa. However, there is increasing global concern regarding the neglect of adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH). This neglect is pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where most adolescent deaths are attributable to complications related to sexual and reproductive health. ASRH interventions remain underfunded in this region. It is critical to understand how much it will cost to implement priority ASRH interventions and how to fund them to make significant progress. Understanding country-specific situations regarding ASRH to inform national action plans is also essential.        

The African Health Economics and Policy Association (AfHEA) led a research team with researchers from Ghana and Senegal to stimulate further discussions by stakeholder institutions to mobilise investments for ASRH interventions. The project is titled: economics of adolescent sexual and reproductive health (EcASaRH) interventions in Ghana and Senegal. In this short article, we share the lived experience of Rosemond (this is a pseudonym and not her real name), who became a victim of early marriage and school dropout at the age of 15 years.

Rosemond, now a mother of two, expecting a third child in a couple of months, is a typical example of about 12% of adolescents in SSA who had their first sexual encounter before turning 15. Unfortunately, she could not keep to finishing basic school for fear of stigmatisation after she got pregnant in Junior High School form 2.

She says:

The system failed to provide me with needed support. All I wanted at the time was a little encouragement from my teachers and peers. Unfortunately, they rather mocked me, and I felt ashamed to further my education. After my first delivery, I sought medical help, and the nurse told me I was too young to be on medication that prevents pregnancy. I was very disappointed in the system. My dream was to be a highly trained professional female engineer to help my country build things for use and export and be able to drive my family out of poverty, but that dream is now far from reality as I must contend with many things” (Personal interview, August 16, 2023).

Photographed on 16th August 2023 with Rosemond’s consent

The first daughter is on her right and the second child is in front.

On this subject, AfHEA is promoting several publications from EcASaRH research project in Ghana and Senegal. The work includes three policy briefs and at least four journal articles aimed to increase knowledge and actions to mitigate ARSH problems. Some topics covered in the publications include 1) cost of implementing priority ASRH interventions in the two countries, 2) identification of priorty ASRH interventions in the two countries, 3) funding gaps for ASRH interventions, and 4) sustainable domestic funding strategies for ASRH interventions.