Addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health
- With the current focus on Covid-19 mitigation measures by national and county governments, accessing maternal, sexual and reproductive health services has been a challenge in recent months.
- Statistics from the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey show that one in five girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is either pregnant or already a mother.
- With these grim statistics, it is evident that adolescent girls and young women face considerable difficulties in accessing essential health and information services, and face other risks during crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. In progress.
The continued rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, which has now passed the 30,000 mark (as of August 20), is likely to have a negative impact on our health system. The majority of the country’s health infrastructure may not be sufficiently prepared to adequately deal with this pandemic.
Our country’s health infrastructure has been strained for many years. This is evident in the inequalities and inequities in accessibility, affordability and quality of services across the country.
With the current focus on Covid-19 mitigation measures by national and county governments, accessing maternal, sexual and reproductive health services has been a challenge in recent months.
According to a study published in the Reproductive Health Journal in 2019 titled Assessing the Effectiveness of a Combined Approach to Improving the Use of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in Kenya, indicates that Kenya has poor sexual health indicators and adolescent reproductive health – with an adolescent pregnancy rate of 18 percent, and an unmet need for family planning as measured by a contraceptive prevalence rate of 49 percent among sexually active and unmarried girls ages 15-19 years.
Similarly, statistics from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014 show that one in five girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is either pregnant or already a mother.
With these grim statistics, it is evident that adolescent girls and young women face considerable difficulties in accessing essential health and information services, and face other risks during crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. In progress.
This leads adolescents to face exacerbated mental health issues, sexual and reproductive health issues such as teenage pregnancy, STDs and HIV. In particular, the loss of livelihoods in low-income areas and the increased gender gaps in education and employment due to the Covid-19 pandemic may lead to an increase in sexual and gender-based violence ( SGBV). For example, higher incidences of sexual exploitation, child labor or abusive employment, forced marriages and unwanted pregnancies have been reported.
The consequences of adolescent girls dropping out of school due to unwanted pregnancies are disastrous and constitute an obstacle to improving the education, economic and social status of young women in the country, thereby entrenching the cycle of poverty. in their families.
The teenage pregnancy statistics shared by the media have been challenged with allegations of exaggeration. Various media reports have noted a sharp increase in teenage pregnancies as a result of restrictions linked to Covid-19, and President Uhuru Kenyatta has recently spoken out on the growing cases of violations of children’s rights, in particular teenage pregnancies. However, several county and health officials disagree.
Subsequent studies suggest that incidents of teenage pregnancies have declined, according to the African Institute for Development Policy Study, 2020. The study indicates that Nairobi County recorded 11,795 teenage pregnancies from January to May 2020 compared to 11,410 cases reported in 2019 in the same period. Kakamega reported 6,686 cases compared to 8,109 cases last year, and Machakos, which was the subject of the latest public outcry over teenage pregnancy, ranks 14th with 3,966 cases recorded this year compared to 4,710 case last year.
Of all counties, the total number reported between January and May 2020 is 151,433 compared to 175,488 for the same period in 2019. These figures, derived from antenatal care services, could indicate a decrease in teenage pregnancies or simply reflect the fact that women in general, and adolescents in particular, have less access to antenatal care due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regardless of the different perspectives, the incidence of teenage pregnancy in Kenya is alarming and a major social problem.
The pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic on economic and social systems has also negatively affected various households, thereby limiting the resources available to provide for the needs of the whole family.
In addition, with the Ministry of Education having completely abolished the 2020 school calendar, the situation can only get worse. Health Assistance Kenya, which is one of Kenya’s main frontline response services for sexual and gender-based violence cases, reported for the months of March, April and May that cases registered by the assistance increased from 115 to 461, to 753, respectively.
According to Unesco’s 2020 response on education to Covid-19 titled Negative Consequences of School Closures, indicates that closing institutions can lead to increased exposure to violence and exploitation through marriage forced early childhood, sexual exploitation and child labor.
With schools closed until early next year, the majority of adolescent girls and young women who depend on the frequent supply of school meals and sanitary napkins, may be forced to source these essential items elsewhere. , which increases their vulnerability and risk of sexual violence and unwanted pregnancy.
In order to reduce these negative outcomes, concerted efforts are required from government and communities, private and key stakeholders in the health and education sectors to develop effective strategies and policies that will ensure that services maternal, sexual and reproductive health for our women and girls remain a priority even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor Temmerman, is Director of the Center of Excellence in Women’s and Children’s Health in East Africa, Aga Khan University Medical College
Miss Iyadi, is a former student, BSc in Health Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne Australia.