By Dama Kalama
Health sector stakeholders from the Coastal region are calling on the county governments to increase budgetary allocation to implement effective and coordinated family planning and reproductive health (FPRH) advocacy in the region.
Drawn from youth-based organizations claim budget shortfall within the devolved units would derail the efforts aimed at taming perennial challenges affecting including the challenges of the youth while accessing reproductive health services.
Dream Achievers Youth Organisation DAYO, Pwani Youth Network Executive and Safe Community Youth Initiative say efforts to tame perennial challenges faced by youth while accessing youth friendly centers may worsen should county governments fail to put more budgets.
“It’s our appeal that county governments in the Coastal region should prioritise budgets on reproductive health services to the youth, access to reproductive health services will reduce a lot of vices,” Gaetano said.
While in the implementation of Strengthening Local Advocacy Leadership in East Africa (SLALE) project, the lobby groups have attributed decline to teenage pregnancies to the construction youth friendly centers constructed to address the plight of the youthful generation across Kilifi County.
However, Ken Miriti, Kilifi County Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Coordinator affirmed that Kilifi County has allocated Sh5 million in this financial year for reproductive health services.
“We have allocated Sh5 million to ensure full realization of youth friendly centers in Kilifi County. The youth have for decades been ignored and that is why we are working hard with other stakeholders to ensure full realization,” Miriti said in an interview.
This is even as the county is still struggling with shortage of staff to work in the youth friendly centers set within the county to address matters of the youth. The official cited inadequate budgets as well as shortage of staff.
“We are having a shortage of staff to work in these centers because they should make value, we want to ensure at least two staff employed by the county in each youth friendly center,” added Miriti.
According to the youth, restricted access to SRH services and information leaves adolescents at risk for unplanned pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Kilifi County registered about 3,366 cases in the last three years, according to data from Safe Community Youth Initiative, with 50 of them getting unwanted pregnancy since March 2020.
Pwani Youth Network executive director Alfred Sigo appealed to the county governments to foster the formulation of reproductive health policies that addresses challenges facing young people.
“Kilifi County, like the national government, has one of the best reproductive health policies. This will go a long way in addressing youth matters,” he said.
He also wants the county government to engage youth meaningfully so that they can access youth friendly services.
“We are now seeing Kilifi County refurbishing some of the YFCs so that young people can access services. This is a good step ahead,” said Sigo.
LACK OF COMMITMENT
Safe community youth programs officer Steven Kibindio lashed out at some of the health officials in charge of YFC accusing them of lack of commitment
“75 per cent of the YFC in charge are not trained on provision of Youth friendly,’ noted Kibindio.
He points out that Covid 19 has negatively impacted most of the meetings with county staff adding “most of them are normally not available when we want to meet them. Kibindio revealed that Malindi subcounty is a new hub of HIV AIDS pandemic.
This happens as Kilifi County in collaboration with local nongovernmental organizations unveil an anti-teenage pregnancy campaign that seeks to tame the vice that has for decades taken a toll on underage girls in the Coastal region.
The campaign dubbed ‘My Voice matters’ has brought together over 300 under-age girls among them young mothers, ostensibly to build confidence on how they can overcome any form of abuse.
The campaign steered by Kilifi county department of children, and three child rights organizations targets to empower young girls with sexual reproductive knowledge to enable them better control of their bodies and enable them to speak up for themselves.
In Kilifi county for example, girls are culturally not allowed to have a voice or take leadership positions, this project seeks to demystify the stereotype and build girls confidence so that they can be able to make informed decisions about their future.
According to Benjamin Katana, chairman of Safe Community Youth Initiative, data compiled by the organization shows that since Covid-19 struck in March about 50 underage girls have been impregnated in Kilifi County alone.
Kilifi County, the situation has been worsened by prolonged school closure. My voice matters campaign seeks to enable them better control of their bodies and enable them to speak up for themselves,” said Katana.
“By the end of two years, girls will have better understanding of their bodies, and change perception on their stance as girls in terms of gender, their self-worth, have better control of their bodies and enable them speak up on any form of abuse,” said Petronila Nzomo, Pad Adada initiative executive officer from Kilifi county.
According to Sakina Ali,16 one of the girls says Lack of sanitary towels, poor family backgrounds and community stereotypes about girl children is to blame for the rise of the societal vices.
She expressed optimism that new development will drastically reduce early marriages and teenage pregnancies. She spoke during the campaign launch held at Mawenzi resort in Kilifi South Subcounty recently.
“Our biggest challenge is lack of sanitary towels because most of our parents are poor and have been affected by the coronavirus economically, we believe this campaign will protect us and empower those of us who have fallen prey to the vice,” said Sakina Ali.
The organisations involved are Safe Community Youth Initiative, Pad Adada initiative and New Visioners arts group and Kilifi county government which have vowed to conduct an extensive campaign across all Kilifi sub-counties.