Neglected Youth Health Issues: Young People on the Death Train

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
ISSN: 2797-3735, Volume 2, Issue 1, page 6 – 14
Publication Date: 5 February 2019

Vakai Matutu
North-West University
Republic of South Africa

Journal Full Text PDF: Neglected Youth Health Issues: Zimbabwean Young People on the Death Train.

Health Issues for young people in Africa remain underfunded and under-supported by most governments and non- state partners. Despite being under-supported health issues for young people have remained on the periphery of the health agenda. This study sought to identify neglected health issues for young people in Zimbabwe. This paper also provides the key policy considerations for addressing the identified neglected health issues for young people. The study used focus groups discussions, interviews and key informants to gather evidence and data for the purpose of this research, therefore the paper is built on a mix of both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. The research also made reference to relevant secondary data. According to this study the most neglected health issues in Zimbabwe are health problems arising from, drug abuse and addiction (66%), STIs (64%), effects of alcohol abuse and tobacco use, malaria, cholera, typhoid, and effects of promiscuity, smoking and too much work. A deliberate policy and effort is needed by the government with support from partners to commit more resources towards youth health issues and further to this health issues for young people should be a top priority in the development and health agenda for nation.

Keywords: Neglected Health Issues, Young People, Policy, HIV/AIDS, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Sexually Transmitted Infections.

1. Introduction and Background
The African youth population is large with about 200 million young people being active on the continent which is 20 percent of the total population of more than 1 billion. Africa’s relatively young population is made up of about 42 percent young people below 15 years. The youth bulge can have positive consequences for Africas development, if properly channelled. (Brempong and Kimenyi 2013:11).
Zimbabwe has total population of 13 061 239.The country’s population is relatively young with 41 percent of the population being below age 15 years and about 4 percent age 65 years and above. The population in this country is mostly rural with 67 percent of the total found in rural areas. There are 3 059 016 households with an average size of 4 persons per household. Zimbabwe’s population is a youthful one, young people aged 0 to 34 years constitute about 76.8% of the total population based on age groups. There is a great youth socio economic dividend from young people which is yet to be fully exploited for the benefit of the country. Development that excludes young people also remains incomplete as young people form the core of the country’s population (ZimStats, 2012) There is no nation that can move forward when its young people are trapped in the cycles of poverty, or when they have inadequate health care, and limited education, or when they are constrained by social and cultural values that hinder their progress. Youths are a vulnerable group that need protection by government, none-state actors and their own communities. Young people are not a homogeneous group hence their needs are diverse and varied, therefore policy targeting young people should take note of this diversity (Petersen et al, 2016).

1.1 Conceptualising the term ‘Youth’ in Zimbabwe
The term of ‘Youth’ in Zimbabwe has got various meanings according different people and organizations and context. Definitions range from those that are purely of a legal nature to those that are of a functional one. In all countries, the terms “adolescent”, “teenager,” “youth” all refer to young people undergoing physical mental and cultural transition from childhood to adulthood. The World Health Organization defines adolescents as people aged 10 to 19 and young people as aged 10-24. In Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health, the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) and the Central Statistical Office (CSO) consider those in the age group 10-24 as youth. Similarly, the National Population Policy used the age group 10-24 to define the youth population. However for the purpose of this research, the term youth refers to young people aged 10-24 years irrespective of their gender, race, colour, religion, and political affiliation, and marital status, physical or mental disability. The lack of a universal definition of “youth” makes measuring the youth problems difficult and the comparison of data across countries less reliable. Going forward there is need for a global consensus on the definition of youth.

1.2 Health and Young People in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is in the midst of a severe HIV epidemic. The magnitude and scope of HIV/AIDS is alarming especially among young people. According to the National AIDS Council (2017) Zimbabwe has one of the highest prevalence of HIV infection in Sub Saharan Africa. There are more than one thousand infections per week. Estimates from sentinel surveillance data indicate that the HIV infection rate rose steadily from 9.2% in 2005 to 19.4% in 2015, at an average annual increase of 2% (MOHCW :2016).HIV and AIDS has greatly contributed to decline in the quality of health among young people due to increased mortality and morbidity (Gizachew et al, 2018:1). The magnitude of the epidemic could even be much greater since reported cases seriously under-represent the actual incidence of HIV/AIDS because of under-diagnosis and under-reporting. Among the reported cases, close to 60% are young adults between 20 and 39 years. More females are infected at a younger age than males and in the 15-19 age group, female cases are six times that of males (Wechsber et al,2018:2). The peak age for being infected with HIV is believed to be 20-29 for females and 30-39 for males (MoHCC, 2015). Global reductions in HIV prevalence have been experienced, ‘however rates of new HIV infections remain the highest among 15 to 24 year old youths in sub-Saharan Africa’ and the new infections for young girls are more than double young boys further exposing the various psycho social and economic vulnerability factors in young girls (Toska et al, 2017:2)……..