Poorly funded adolescent and reproductive health programmes in Kenya are hampering efforts to achieve healthcare targets specified in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, medical experts have said.
The experts made the remarks at a reproductive health held Thursday at the Aga Khan University on the sidelines of the Nairobi Summit International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25).
The event was co-organised by Aga Khan University’s Medical College, the United Nations Population Fund, the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, the International Centre for Reproductive Health, the Academic Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Prof Marleen Temmerman, who is AKU’s Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health East Africa at the Medical College, said early pregnancies was a barrier to girls’ development and the country’s journey to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
“Early pregnancy is a barrier to the improvement in the education, economic and social status of young women across the world, including Kenya,” said Professor Marleen.
“This leads to many girls dropping out of school, which in the long-run, reduces their employment opportunities and leads to increased poverty in their families.”
According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014, 11 per cent of women aged 15-19 were recorded as “currently married,” when their counterparts were in school.
Prof Marleen Temmerman said Kenya has a long way to go to achieve the SDG targets despite progress made in providing access to sexual and reproductive health services, reducing maternal and child mortality and putting an end to gender-based violence.
Speaking at the event, World Health Organization’s Dr Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli said there was need for the country to implement health policies that would ensure young people could achieve their full potential.
Dr Chandra-Mouli said that investment in adolescent sexual and reproductive health interventions has a major impact on the health, well-being and economy of a country.
“Studies have shown that investing in adolescent, sexual and reproductive health will result in healthier and enlightened adolescents who will go on to become productive citizens,” said the medic.
“We must advocate to keep adolescent sexual and reproductive health on the agenda. In addition, there is a need to make use of enabling policies in designing effective strategies, build on the lessons of the last 25 years and develop tailor-made health interventions aligned with the needs of adolescents and young people,” he said.
1.2 BILLION YOUTHS
Currently, the WHO estimates that there are nearly 1.2 billion adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years of age old worldwide.
In some countries, adolescents make up as much as a quarter of the population, with their population adolescents expected to rise between now and 2050. The increase will be more evident in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Prof Temmerman said Kenya still has a long way to go to achieve the SDG targets despite progress made in providing access to sexual and reproductive health services, reducing maternal and child mortality and putting an end to gender-based violence.
She urged academic institutions to support the government in efforts to achieve the SDGs through research and proposal of practical and affordable solutions to the nation’s reproductive health challenges.
“As academic institutions we need to support all the key stakeholders including the government to ensure that we are at the forefront in the full implementation of the ICPD agenda, which is in line with the SDGs agenda,” added Prof Marleen.
Among the measures the medics recommended were the creation of adolescent-friendly spaces in primary health centres, creation of awareness on available contraceptive methods, improving outreach and referrals for teens in need of reproductive health care and supporting school retention and re-entry for pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers.
At least 70 participants from around the world participated in the side event, which focused on topics such as ending preventable maternal death, unmet family planning need, gender-based violence and cervical cancer, and adolescent health.