Give adolescents contraceptives, health advocates plead with governments
What you need to know:
- In Kenya, a new policy on reproductive health as articulated by the national government does not allow any health care workers to give contraceptives to minors unless they are accompanied by a parent or a guardian.
- This is even as a 2021 National Council for Population and Development report shows that one in every four girls in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 is either pregnant or has given birth to a first child.
African governments have been urged to provide contraceptives to teenagers who are sexually active to help them avoid unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Sexual reproductive rights champions and medical experts from Africa further urged their states to allow teenagers who have been impregnated through rape, defilement and incest to abort.
“Access to contraception, safe abortion and other comprehensive sexuality education is crucial for the youth. There is so much controversy in Kenya on the issue of age of consent for sexual intercourse. But from the demographic health survey, most adolescent girls are sexually active before they are 15; so why shouldn’t we give them contraceptives? “Asked Ms Ruth Mbone, a health advocate.
Speaking in Mombasa during the 5th Reproductive Health Network Kenya Annual Scientific Conference on Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), the health advocates said access to contraceptives such as condoms is crucial in preventing teenage pregnancies and STIs.
In Kenya, a new policy on reproductive health as articulated by the national government does not allow any health care workers to give contraceptives to minors unless they are accompanied by a parent or a guardian.
This is even as a 2021 National Council for Population and Development report shows that one in every four girls in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 is either pregnant or has given birth to a first child.
Dr Angela Akol, head of Ipas Africa Alliance, an organisation that deals with women’s reproductive health and rights in Kenya and Uganda, said epidemics tend to destroy health service delivery.
“Shortly into the pandemic, health organisations analysed the impact of Covid-19 on SRHR and found out that access to health services related to sexual and reproductive health had been disrupted. There was also a marginal increase in the volume of abortion care and post-abortion care as well as sexual and gender-based violence,” said Dr Akol.
Ms Katia Olaro, a health advocate from Uganda, said many young girls were impregnated during the prolonged school closure in the country.
“We had the longest lockdown in the world. Many of those who were impregnated couldn’t access health services. There were a lot of unsafe abortions and many girls died,” said Ms Olaro.
Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at Aga Khan University, Prof Marleen Temmerman, urged governments to create systems, processes and special programmes to address sexual and gender-based violence crisis.
“One woman in three has had to deal with the violence in her life. But the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence and incidence rates,” said Pro Temmerman.
Prof Temmerman, who is also a gynaecologist, said the pandemic affected health-seeking behaviour, with many Kenyans shying away from health facilities.
“ The pandemic affected maternal health and family planning uptake,” said the medical expert.
She said data from the Ministry of Health shows that maternal deaths spiked.