Adolescence is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood: it is a period in which although no longer considered a child, the young person is not considered adult neither.
Adolescence is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, and involve physical, psychological, cognitive and social behavioural changes.
In terms of age group, Nigeria’s Policy on Health and Development of Adolescent and Young People defines adolescents as people of between age 10 to 19 years. This definition is in line with the definition used by World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations agencies.
The age group can be sub divided into three periods
·        Early: 10 to 14 years
·        Middle: 15 to 17 years
·        Late: 18 to 19 years
 Demographic and Health Situation of Adolescents in Nigeria
Adolescent constitute one of the most important population groups – a vital bridge between childhood and adulthood. Given their size and characteristics, they are a country’s most valuable assets. With proper investment in their lives and development, they can play a key role in the development of their societies and nations. Properly nurtured and guided, adolescents have a capacity to achieve their potentials and grow into productive adults. On the other hand, wrong decisions and actions may lead to increase morbidity and mortality and compromise their future. Thus, perhaps more than other groups in the society, adolescents occupy an exciting but potentially dangerous position.
Adolescence is a period of both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities include development of new capabilities and relationships. On the other hand, the transition to adulthood often involves periods of stress, innovation, experimentation and disorganization. The fundamental changes that are happening in today’s world in almost every sphere of life – including technology, social, political, legal and health field – further create challenges for young people.
Demographic Situation
With a population of over 180 million, Nigeria has a “young population” structure with 60 to 65% of the population constituting of young adults. Over 30 million Nigerians are between the ages of 10 t0 19 years and nearly one third of Nigeria’s population is between the ages of 10 t0 24 years.
Health Situation of Adolescents
The leading health problems of young people in Nigeria are: sexual and reproductive health, substance abuse, mental health, trauma, injuries and nutritional problems. The availability of data on these health problems vary considerably, with sexual and reproductive health enjoying higher research attention than others particularly in terms on national surveys.
Key Adolescent Health Challenges
These are few challenges that adolescent is facing in our communities in their day to day lives and these challenges are overlapping.
1.     Sexual behaviour
2.     Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS
3.     Teenage pregnancy
4.     Nutrition
5.     Substance abuse and Mental Health
6.     Accidents and Violence (all forms of sexual violence and coercion)
7.     Access to Health Services
8.     Economic rationale
Legal Provisions
The lead focal policy on adolescent health in Nigeria is the National Policy on the Health and Development of Adolescent and Young People. This policy, which was developed in 2007, build upon the 1995 policy and has nine focal areas:
Ø Sexual and reproductive health and rights;
Ø Nutrition;
Ø Accidents and violence;
Ø Mental health;
Ø Substance use and abuse;
Ø Education;
Ø Career and employment;
Ø Spirituality;
Ø Social adjustment and parental responsibilities
Nigeria has also developed a number of other policies with significant provisions for the health and development of adolescents. These include:
1.     The National Education Policy (1998)
2.      National Reproductive Health Policy and Strategy (2001) *
3.     The Child Right Acts (2004)
4.     The National Health Policy (2004)
5.     The National Population Policy (2004)
6.     The National Nutrition Policy (2005)
7.     National Policy on HIV&AIDS for Education Sector in Nigeria (2005)
8.     The National School Health Policy (2006)
9.     National Health and Development of Adolescents and Young People in Nigeria (2007)
10. National Reproductive Health Policy and Strategy (2001)
11. The National Youth Policy (2009)
12. The National Policy on HIV/AIDS (2009)
Thinking of what needs to be done requires government, stakeholders, civil society organizations and policy experts to thinking sustainable solutions for Sexual and Adolescents health. Many a times we have identified that Nigeria have one of the best policies in the world but implementation is our major problem.
All over the world young people needs:
ü Accurate and comprehensive information on their sexuality;
ü Supports and skills to postpone starting sex for those who are not yet sexually active;
ü Access to protective measure to prevent unwanted pregnancy, STIs including HIV&AIDS for those who have initially have sex;
ü Protection and care from sexual abuse and exploitation; and
ü Access to range of youth friendly services that are designed to promote their sexual and reproductive health.
Countries, with the support of international community should protect and promote the rights of adolescents to reproductive health education, information and care, and strive to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among adolescents. For these to be achieved we need to consider:
1.     The roles of Sexual education
2.     The roles of parents/guardians
3.     The roles of teachers and educational administrators
4.     The roles of health care providers
5.     The roles of policy makers
6.     The roles of religious and community leaders and
7.     The roles of the mass media
Adolescents may not constitute 100 percent of our population but they certainly make up. 100 percent of our country’s future. Life-long attitudes and behavioural patterns are formed in adolescence therefore, addressing their needs will have positive consequences for them now and throughout their lives.
Young people need to learn about their sexuality and reproductive health from everyone in a position to provide accurate information and counselling. The international Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action highlights this urgent need for parents, educators, healthcare providers, programme planners, advocates and policy makers to address the peculiar needs of adolescents: “Governments, in collaboration with non-governmental organisations are urged to meet the special needs of adolescents and to establish appropriate programmes to respond to those needs. Such programmes should include supportive mechanisms for the education and counselling of adolescents in the area of gender relations and equality, violence against adolescents, responsible sexual behaviour, responsible family – planning practice, family life, reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, HIV infection and AIDS prevention. Programmes for the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse and incest other reproductive health services should be provided. Such programmes should provide information to adolescents and make a conscious effort to strengthen positive social and cultural values.
·        World Health Organisation
·        United Nations Population Fund
·        Action Health Incorporated
·        John Hopkins Population Information Programme
·        Nigeria Family Health Service Project
·        Federal Ministry of Health and Social Services
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