Youth decry lost access to contraception

Monday, July 13th, 2020 00:00 |
Andy Awiti. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Elly Gitau @ElijahGitau

Two in five Kenyan youth now live in a new reality characterised by a weakened Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (SRH) system, with reduced access to contraceptives of choice, says a new report dubbed #Formnigani report, Young Kenyan Voices: Covid-19 and Contraception.

The closure of colleges and universities has seen an estimated 16.7 per cent of young Kenyans lose access to free contraceptives, with a further 13.3 per cent reporting a shortage of male condoms in government health facilities.

Disruptions in services, together with measures taken to curb the pandemic are contributing to the faltering of family planning programmes.

“Covid-19, like other health issues, has highlighted the challenges that have long existed in our healthcare system; from universal healthcare to access to contraception.

It is bound to magnify the impact of an insufficient health system, which has a long-lasting impact on our society and economy,” says Leading Kenyan futures expert Dr Katindi Sivi, who facilitated the scenarios development in the Covid-19 and Contraception report. 

#Formnigani, a creative movement by young Kenyans advocating for national conversation on contraception in Kenya, surveyed 1,400 youth in March, this year. 

It indicated that 92 per cent of them felt family planning was important to their future and that of the country.

The report further shows 53 per cent of the young Kenyans reported challenges in accessing contraception as pharmacies were either closed or operating on reduced opening times.

Sixty per cent of respondents experienced difficulty in accessing contraceptives, with 36.6 per cent stating that this difficulty resulted in irregular use of contraceptives.

The findings come against a backdrop of already alarming maternal deaths with an estimated 6,300 women dying annually during pregnancy and childbirth primarily due to unplanned pregnancies.

In Kenya, 42 per cent of pregnancies are unintended, as per a 2019 study by Performance Monitoring for Action, a statistic that could rise because of the pandemic.

The maternal health crisis has, in recent years, seen seven women die daily due to unsafe abortions.

“In this new reality, a higher number of Kenyan youth whose contraception needs were previously being met may find themselves among the underserved or marginalised as new factors play a greater role in influencing access and usage.

Reduction and loss of income, for example, mean that individual priorities and attitudes change if uncertainties persist,” said Andy Awiti, strategy consultant and a participant of the #formnigani Think Tank.

Overall, respondents predicted a surge in pregnancies, a sharp increase in population, and increase in girls forced to abandon their studies due to pregnancies and childbirth. About 36.7 per cent anticipated an increase in abortions.

The Covid-19 and Contraception report also recommends the adoption of  a community based, population approach to contraception policy and financing that seeks to include the most vulnerable; a contraception supply chain anchored on offering expanded choice of methods; and an SRH system that benefits from the synchrony between health facilities and outreach initiatives.

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