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Expert Urges Greater Fight Against Substance Abuse, Others In Rivers

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The Technical Adviser and Co-chair, National  Adolescent Technical Working Group Committee, Dr. Esther Envulady, has urged the Rivers State Government to pay more emphasis on the eradication of substance abuse among adolescents in the state,since it affects both boys and girls.
Envulady said that the state needs to do more for adolescents in terms of  advocacy and information to address  this and other challenges in other to safeguard adolescent’s health.
Speaking with The Tide in an exclusive interview during the workshop on Monitoring of Implementation of Priority/Annual Operational Plans organised by the Rivers State Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the adviser stated that the issues of teenage pregnancy, school dropouts and cultism should also be addressed urgently.
She noted that the workshop organised was to  evaluate progress in the implementation of some of the outlined activities in order to accelerate adolescent health, adding that, “we are here to identify the gaps and the challenges in achieving the outlined activities and proffer recommendations on the way forward in achieving the outlined activities to improve adolescent health”.
She stated that adolescent health is a complex issue and so all hands must be on deck to address it.
“We are all stake holders in it. The governments, parents, schools, communities and the developing partners. We all have to play our roles to ensure that our adolescents are healthy. If they are not healthy, we will have problem with the future leadership and unproductive economy” she said.
Envulady, who is also an Associate Professor in Community Medicine and Reproductive Health at the University of Jos explained that in Nigeria, adolescents majorly have health problems which include unintended pregnancy, HIV and STI. Also, increasing rate of substance abuse, violence and rape were other challenges affecting health and development.
She added that, “there is sex abuse of both girls and boys nationally. This is also a problem because we only talk about girls but boys are being raped daily at homes, schools, on the streets, in churches, mosques and other places, so they also need a voice to protect them”.
The adolescent health expert, who has been working on adolescent health issues for over 10 years noted that there are also non-communicable diseases like liver and cervical cancers which is increasingly seen among young people. This is because most of these girls who go into early and unprotected sex are exposed to Human Papiloma Virus.
“Also, poor oral health which leads to poor hygiene, personal and menstrual hygiene is also a priority problem that has been identified nationally. Another problem of adolescents nationally is mental health. In Jos , we see high rate of cancers in the young age group like cervical, liver cancers, also oralferigel cancers from sexual conducts like oral sex”, she noted.
She further explained that most of these activities by these young ones are experimental but not channelled in the right direction, adding that there is need to more information for adolescents and delivery of adolescent responsive health services.
She however appealed to governments that health facilities should have adolescent spaces for them to express themselves for privacy and confidentialities, so that they can feel free to visit  such facilities and relate their problems.
“These ones need more attention because of their sense of adventure. Once they miss it at this point of life, adulthood will be a big challenge,” she said.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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My Advice To Other Children

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Children are blessings  to their families, they are the joy of mothers because no mother wants to be barren.
When God blesses a man with children, He gives duties and responsibilities to both parents and their children.
First and foremost, children are to obey their parents in the Lord for this is right. And also honour their father and mother and people in the society, school and church.
Children are expected to perform their duties to their parents  by helping them in house chores, running errands for them and accord them respect.
Children should learn to keep away from bad influence in the society and at school because evil communication corrupts good manners.The bible says,” show me your friend and I will tell you who you are”.
As a child, your life is in your hands,you are 100% responsible  for how your life turns out.Therefore, feed your mind with good thoughts about your future. Think big and think well.  You should always strive to be the best person you can be. Never shake a person’s hand while sitting down or using your left hand.
Children should form the habit of reading their books and studying their books rather than  surfing the internet for things that are not edifying, chatting, playing video games and watching different kinds of movies, that is why children, especially teenagers should put a stop to all these activities because the time they use in doing all these at least they might have used it to read books and do well in examinations with flying colours and become  leaders who will lead Nigeria into becoming a better place in the future.

By: Flourish Christopher
Flourish Christopher is a Senior Secondary student of Methodist Girls High School, Harbour Road, Port Harcourt.

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‘Robots Can Be Used To Assess Children’s -Mental Wellbeing’

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Robots can be better at detecting mental wellbeing issues in children than parent-reported or self-reported testing, a new study suggests.
Robots can be better at detecting mental wellbeing issues in children than parent-reported or self-reported testing, a new study suggests.
A team of roboticists, computer scientists and psychiatrists from the University of Cambridge carried out a study with 28 children between the ages of eight and 13, and had a child-sized humanoid robot administer a series of standard psychological questionnaires to assess the mental wellbeing of each participant.
The children were willing to confide in the robot, in some cases sharing information with the robot that they had not yet shared via the standard assessment method of online or in-person questionnaires. This is the first time that robots have been used to assess mental wellbeing in children.
The researchers say that robots could be a useful addition to traditional methods of mental health assessment, although they are not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health support. The results will be presented today (1 September) at the 31st IEEE International Conference on Robot & Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN) in Naples, Italy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, home schooling, financial pressures, and isolation from peers and friends impacted the mental health of many children. Even before the pandemic however, anxiety and depression among children in the UK has been on the rise, but the resources and support to address mental wellbeing are severely limited.
Professor Hatice Gunes, who leads the Affective Intelligence and Robotics Laboratory in Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, has been studying how socially-assistive robots (SARs) can be used as mental wellbeing ‘coaches’ for adults, but in recent years has also been studying how they may be beneficial to children.
Source: University of Cambridge.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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Workshop Participants Task Govt On Adolescents’ Needs

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Young people in Rivers State have urged the government to be more sensitive to their needs by providing enabling environment in the health centres and more enlightenment programmes to curb drug abuse, cultism, violence and other vices in the state.
Speaking in separate interviews to The Tide on the sideline of a workshop Monitoring of Priority/Annual Implementation Plans  of Adolescents organised by the Rivers State Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Port Harcourt  recently, some adolescents who attended the workshop noted that a greater attention to the needs of adolescents and young people will aide societal development.
Mr Okwua Ezekiel stated that the three health facilities at Orogbum, Ozuoba and Mgbudunku that were visited during the adolescent programme had very limited free space and no easy access for young people to receive counselling or treatment since they would want their privacy to be maintained.
Ezekiel, who is a youth champion of the state Ministry of Health  representing Port Harcourt Local Government Area further noted that government should help create adolescent free space in these health centres so that more adolescents will be willing to visit these centres to receive treatment and counselling.
He also noted that the health care providers in these centres should be young, friendly and accommodating unlike the elderly ones who oftentimes are harsh in their attitude towards adolescents, adding that the centres only concentrate  in teenage pregnancy, conception and rape cases, no counselling for drug abuse, cultism and services for their male adolescents and access fee of N800 for card/folder may not be affordable by adolescents.
He however pleaded that government should maintain the building provided for adolescents by the Charlton Adolescent Health Initiative at the Orogbum centre which has been converted to family planning back for adolescent use.Also,rehabilitation centres for male adolescents that are into drug abuse and cultism should be provided nusy like the one for rape cases for female adolescents.
He also tasked government to do more with information dissemination to adolescents in schools, both government and private schools on the consequences and effects of these vices which adolescents indulge in, adding that, government can partner with brand companies, especially during festive seasons to talk to adolescents about these vices.
According to him, “the ministry should concentrate action in the Diobu axis and other sensitive areas of the state that have high rate of cultism and substance abuse among adolescents and youths. Also, the Police should be trained not to abuse adolescents, especially around Mile One area. He noted  that the actions of the Police sometimes drive these young boys into  joining cults”, he said.
Another youth, Miss Catherine Dasosi said that, there is urgent need for government to reduce the incidence of substance abuse by adolescents which is the basis of crime and violence in the state.
Dasosi, who is also a youth champion representing Gokana L.G.A also pleaded with bodies such as the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to help the adolescents more by providing funds to reach out to these young ones.
She also noted that, “parents were part of the problem as some don’t  have time for their children, they don’t know how to take care of them or even advise them”.
She also tasked religious bodies to devote more time to educate adolescents in their fold on everything they need to know, including sex education.
Dasosi, however expressed satisfaction with what the state Ministry of Health was doing concerning adolescents, though they need to do more to help the young ones.
She explained that as a youth champion representing the ministry in Gokana, L.G.A, she counsels young people from ages 13-24 in the three wards in Bodo city and Gokana.
“I go to churches on Sunday’s or youth days/programmes. By 2pm I visit student’s social clubs or elite groups. On Monday’s and Wednesday’s, I go to schools in the area for counselling to talk to them on abstinence from sex, issues of STI s, gender based violence, conception, family planning methods, cultism, alcoholism and drug abuse.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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