By Sade Oguntola
Secretary, Kano State Taskforce on COVID-19, Dr Imam Wada Bello, in an appraisal of the pandemic in the country, said the pandemic’s effect was felt mostly by young people, as evidenced by more reported pregnancies and rape cases across the country.
Dr Bello spoke during a virtual panel discussion on COVID-19 titled ‘A Pandemic’s Assault on Gender-Based Violence and Reproductive Health Services,’ a part of activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists, Nigeria.
He said at the height of the pandemic, many young people were faced more with sexual and reproductive health rights issues such as sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and gender-based violence.
He added that girls were exposed to various obstetrics and gynecology problems like haemorrhage, abortion and disruption of HIV services and care, declaring that sexual abuse is an overwhelming problem in Nigeria which cuts across.
He declared that along these, they were simultaneously experiencing an increasing rate of non-communicable conditions and behavioural risk factors, leading to other health challenges such as mental health disorder, substance abuse, nutritional problems and violence.
He, however, said it was not true that young people would not like accessing sexual reproductive health services if such services were professional, friendly, unbiased, non-judgmental in order to delay pregnancies and maximise their potential.
Magistrate Amina Garuba Ahmed, executive chairperson, Bauchi State VAP Law Working Group, stated that about 30 per cent of girls and women aged between 15 and 45 had experienced one form of gender-based violence or the other during the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to her, “Cumulatively, there were over 140 cases that we have under investigation. They have not seen the doors of the court and this shows that there was an increase in the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence occurrence in Bauchi State. Cases of rape were higher in number; the majority of those subject to rape within the period had not even attained the age of 10.”
She added that in response to the case, the Bauchi State government launched the VAP law as well as established a technical working group to coordinate all responses that had to do with gender-based violence in the state.
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