On 31 August 2022, DSW Ethiopia opened its second of six youth-friendly clinics (YFC), with the aim of providing services in the area of sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The youth development training center in Bishoftu (Debrezeit) incorporates an in-house SRH service provision. This youth-friendly clinic, which is now operating at full capacity, functions in an integrated manner with the youth empowerment center aligned to it.

“Empowering youth is a long tradition of virtue in DSW’s strategic approach one which was initiated to address the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people in Ethiopia. The establishment and strengthening of youth empowerment centers were born out of the needs for developing the capacity of adolescent and young people using age-appropriate SRHR interventions. The youth empowerment strategy has, all along been aligned to every SRHR-based project undertaken by DSW and each was tailored in encouraging young people to assume responsibility and self-determination over their own life,” says Feyera Assefa, Country Director of DSW Ethiopia during a half-day inauguration ceremony, which took place at DSW’s youth development training center where the new structure was built. The training center is also close to an established government youth center.

Sintayew T. Demissie, Adolescent and Youth Officer with the Federal Ministry of Health, noting that the FMoH continued its commitment and expanded the youth-friendly service provision corners by integrating them with youth centers. “We also appreciate DSW’s engagement and action that complemented our national strategy in which the youth-friendly services are prioritized. This structure built by DSW for the YFC is an exemplary model worth replicating”, Mr. Demissie acknowledged in an opening speech at the inaugural event.

In her keynote address, Lelisse Melkamu, Adolescent and Youth SRH Officer at the Oromia regional state’s health bureau, enthused about the fact that on one side of this youth-friendly clinic is a government-run youth center within walking distance and DSW’s youth development center on the other side, making it all the more convenient  for young people to access the services. “This is an innovative virtue once again exhibited by DSW to reach out to the youth, bringing a youth-friendly service where the youth choose to be around spend their time.”, she declared.

“It was barely a year ago when we sought a project themed “Integrating Youth-Friendly Services into Youth Empowerment Center (IYFS-YEC)” and for the first time we embarked on providing SRH services rather than just engaging in disseminating the information, creating the demands for and enhancing an enabling environment for service provision through outreach and advocacy efforts, these have included the referral links,” asserted Mr. Assefa.

“Now we have become an organisation that works on providing SRH service. We have already developed the checklists for conducting measurable quality assurances and the engagements in terms of technical supports of the youth-friendly clinic, one which is inaugurated today and the five others also fall within the responsibility of DSW,” emphasised Segni Tefera, a Health Officer who oversees the youth-friendly clinics and is one of DSW’s growing team members with a background in health.

On the day of the opening, many stakeholders were invited to the launch of the clinic. Many young people, who were already at the youth center nearby, were also curious about the clinic and came to have a look at it. “It was all meant to go this way,” Mr. Assefa uttered as he encouraged the presence of the young people at the launch. “It is a friendlier one for you,” Mr. Assefa emphasised to the youth, “the youth center is not far away and the youth development training center is right over here, and in between you have got the youth-friendly clinic, which will ensure that your SRHR service provision needs are conveniently met.”

A youth-friendly clinic, one that is integrated into a youth empowerment center such as this, remains a core thematic intervention for DSW. Efforts to empower youth with SRHR will be attainable when young people actively seek out access to sexual education, health services and methods of family planning.

The concept of embedding the youth-friendly clinics with the youth empowerment centers (YEC) was driven by the fact that the in-and-out-of-school youth are interconnected by the YEC and through referral provision with which the health centers remain strongly linked with. Yet, the project support groups, which include stakeholders from influential members of the community who are part of these networks, have to create an enabling environment for SRH service provision by closely working with the YEC. The flying (mobile) nurses, a new modality initiated by DSW, remain integrated in the network of the youth-friendly clinics to deliver the SRH services where health center-based providers are not conveniently reachable by the youth.

Almost 33 percent of Ethiopia’s population consists of young people between the ages of 10 and 24. This figure constitutes the largest generation in the nation’s history. By virtue of this demographic bulge, no other competing development priority other than ensuring the health of these age groups makes the demographic dividend a real possibility in the future of the nation. In light of this fact, the youth-friendly service provision is a viable strategy to address the SRHR of young people.

Photos: private