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Make contraception services youth-friendly

Tuesday September 24 2019

contraceptives

In order to secure access to contraceptives for the youth, public health facilities need to be equipped to provide youth-friendly services. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

EVELYN SAMBA
By EVELYN SAMBA
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At the Family Planning Summit held in London in July 2017, Kenya committed to increase the number of health facilities providing youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.

This was in light of evidence that youth aged 10-24 are having sex and suffering negative outcomes as a result.

The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014 shows that a significant proportion of youth aged 15-19 are already bearing children.

At 15, three out of 100 girls are either pregnant or have given birth to their first child, which rises to 40 by age 19.

Youth aged 10-24 also have higher rates of unintended pregnancy, new HIV infections and deaths or injuries from unsafe abortions than any other demographic.

Worse, the young people are grossly underserved by the public health system.

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RELIABLE

According to the commitment document, only one in 10 public health facilities were at the time equipped to provide the services, and the government committed to increase the proportion of the facilities to 30 per cent by 2020.

There is no universal definition of youth-friendly services, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that they should generally be accessible, acceptable and appropriate for the youth.

The services are in the right place at the right price (free where necessary) and delivered in the right style to be acceptable to young people.

They are effective, safe and affordable. They meet the individual needs of the youth, who return as needed and recommend them to friends.

More domestic funding is required to provide the services. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the public sector accounts for the majority of contraceptive users — at 60 per cent.

FUNDING

In order to secure access to contraceptives for the youth therefore, public health facilities need to be equipped to provide youth-friendly services.

Increasing the number of facilities offering such services requires funding. But external funding for these programmes is fast dwindling.

First, Kenya’s classification to a lower middle-income country in 2014 means that international development assistance for it is reducing.

Secondly, reinstatement of the Mexico City policy has affected external funding inflow from the United States, one of Kenya’s biggest sources.

Some 17 million Kenyans, or 33 per cent of the population, are 10-24 years old, according to the United Nations Population Fund’s estimates.

We simply cannot afford to ignore their sexual and reproductive health needs, especially as Kenya seeks to tap the economic potential of this demographic.

GREAT REWARDS

Many county governments have developed and are implementing five-year family planning schemes factoring in the need for youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.

That increases the chances that more youth will have access to information about contraception.

Ultimately, more youth are more likely to use contraception, meaning more young people will make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health, including when to have children.

The national and county governments should therefore accelerate action to meet the commitment to increase the proportion of facilities offering youth-friendly services to enhance access to contraception for the youth.

Ms Samba is the Kenya country director at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW). [email protected]

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