Introduce sex education in schools, urge experts
Health experts have called for the introduction of the controversial sex education in schools to curb the rising number of teen pregnancies.
They raised concern that it has become normal for teenagers to bear children yet it has very serious effects on the wellbeing of the teenagers, children, parents and the society at large.
Led by the chairman of the National Caucus of Health Executives Joseph Mbai, they said a well thought out sex education model will go a long way in curbing the menace that saw 152,000 girls put in the family way in just three months of the Covid-19 lock down last year.
This is a 40 per cent increase in the country’s monthly average, which Mbai said is unacceptable.
“The Ministry of Health should drive the initiative by developing a curriculum and deploying experts to teach our children all the aspects of reproductive health,” Dr Mbai said in Nairobi during celebrations to mark the World Contraception Day.
HIV and abstinence
In 2013, the government committed to scale up sex education, beginning courses in primary schools. But efforts to actualise the plan have been met with fierce opposition from conservative and religious groups.
Currently, when sex education is taught at all, courses focus largely on HIV prevention and abstinence — which means students’ knowledge of reproductive and sexual health is often limited.
“As a country, we really have to start teaching our children about reproductive health.
This is because as early as 10 years, a girl has started seeing her periods and is vulnerable to conception.
On the other hand, a boy of a similar age can impregnate a woman, and in this case, his peers who are the school going girls,” the Murang’a Health executive pointed out.
“We know, but we assume,” he said, noting that parents, because of outdated cultural beliefs have abdicated their roles of counselling their children to teachers and churches.
“What happens when children have unregulated internet access? They learn about their sexuality from social media and practice what they see and read,” he noted.
He argues children born by teenagers are not likely to perform well in terms of their health; growth and academically.
“If a teenager gives birth, where will she get money to raise the child from?” he posed.
This results in malnutrition and poor brain development because most of the health outcomes in the first 1,000 days for the child have been affected adversely.”
Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman admitted that the pandemic exposed inequalities in access to contraception and sexual and reproductive health services which should be addressed urgently.
Dr Aman noted that as the Covid-19 pandemic affected lives across the world, accessing and making good decisions around contraception became more challenging.
Statistics from the Kenya Health Information System (KHIS) show that during the financial year 2019/2020, family planning visits dropped to about 5 million from about 5.4 million the previous year.
“While contraception services remained largely accessible to people in the high-income bracket, marginalised groups and persons living with disability have not been so lucky,” he stated.
A significant number of Kenyans, he said, lost their sources of livelihood because of Covid 19 and this saw them prioritise provision of basic needs for their families as opposed to reproductive health care.
“These inequalities pose a risk of reversing the progress Kenya has made in enabling access to modern contraception,” Dr Aman said while presiding over the event.
Access to contraceptives
It emerged through various reports presented yesterday that the percentage of married women using modern family planning methods has increased from 36 per cent in 2007 to 61 per cent currently.
Dr Aman said an estimated 6.2 million Kenyan women are using modern contraceptives and this has had an impact on the population.
“This has helped curb rapid population growth and drive development,” he pointed out, indicating that the national financial allocation towards family planning interventions was on an upward trajectory.
He said that in the financial year 2021/2022, the health budget has been increased from Sh111.7 billion to 121.1 billion.
The funds will largely go towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which also covers family planning services.