Good progress has been made but let's not slow down

Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung country director - Kenya, Evelyn Samba. [File, Standard]

The recently released Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2022, has very positive findings on key Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) indicators.

It is a sign that we are on the right path in addressing key challenges, including teenage pregnancies, gender-based violence, and contraception use.

The results have been years in the making, with various measures put in place.

Among them are commitments such as the International Conference on Population and Development, which included elimination of teenage pregnancies, new adolescent and youth HIV infections and harmful practices, while ensuring universal access to youth-friendly SRHR services and information by 2030.

Under the Family Planning (FP2030), Kenya committed to increase domestic financing for family planning commodities, increasing modern contraception use to 64 per cent by 2030 and reducing unmet need for family planning for all women to10 per cent by 2030.

Thanks to such commitments, teenage pregnancy has reduced from 18 per cent in 2014 to 15 per cent in 2022. Contraception use has increased from 53 per cent to 57 per cent, and unmet need for family planning has reduced from 17 per cent to 14 per cent within the same period. Additionally, percentage of physical violence against women has reduced from 45 per cent in 2014 to 34 per cent in 2022 and from 44 per cent to 27 per cent in men.

Of concern, is the high teenage pregnancy in counties such as Samburu (50 per cent), West Pokot (36 per cent), Marsabit (29 per cent), Narok (28 per cent) and Meru (23 per cent). It is a sign that efforts by stakeholders should be ramped up in these counties and others like Mandera, Wajir and Marsabit where the rate of modern contraception use, at two, three and six per cent respectively, is significantly lower than the national average. Society has socialised women to believe they should not be active participants in sex. The availability, affordability and ease of use of male condoms compared to female condoms places power in the hands of men.

It has been shown that younger people (15-17 years) have the lowest level of knowledge of HIV prevention. According to National Syndemic Disease Control Council, 42 per cent of new adult HIV infections are amongst adolescents and young people. For us to make inroads in changing this status, we must prioritise young people in our HIV prevention interventions from awareness creation to provision of testing services.

We must increase our efforts, now that the world is undergoing various challenges such as climate change, which worsen existing SRHR vulnerabilities, including access to services and exposure to violence. Economic vulnerabilities also pose difficulties and raises risk of exposure to child marriages and related consequences such as SGBV and teen pregnancies. If these vulnerabilities are not addressed, they would turn the tides on the progress made.

-Ms Samba is the Kenya country director at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung