The proposed Nairobi City County Finance Bill, which suggests increased fees for essential services such as mortuary services, family planning, and lab services has raised concerns among residents.
Access to healthcare to the general population is barred by costs that most persons are not able to meet, this is further worrying when uptake, access and provision of health services, especially reproductive health, is a challenge to adolescents and young people.
These services should be affordable to young people and should, in most cases, be provided for free to encourage access and uptake. The proposal to introduce fees to costs like insertion of some family planning methods, and post-abortion care is not only worrying but will risk the lives of young people who need these essential services.
The proposed cost for the post-abortion care package is Sh3,000, while implant insertion and removal is Sh500. In these hard economic times, these proposals should be shelved never to be seen again.
Cases of teen pregnancies and deaths from complications of unsafe abortions complications continue to spike not only in Nairobi but also upcountry. Nairobi County is one of the counties that report very high cases of adolescent and teenage pregnancies owing to inaccessibility of information and services among other solutions.
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Putting a cost to very vital health services will be detrimental to the development of the young people and workforce of this great county. These will hugely impact the accessibility of services for young people who continue to report negative health outcomes in HIV, pregnancies and even unsafe abortions.
Family planning plays a crucial role in public health by allowing individuals to make informed choices about their reproductive health. Any hindrance to affordable family planning services could result in an increase in unplanned pregnancies, placing additional strain on already overburdened healthcare systems. This will hugely weaken the public health system in Nairobi where there will be so many burden of cases to the system while access will be at zero.
Young people are in need of affordable and free services to be able to be comfortable in being part of the economic development process. These proposed fees erode the trust that we have in government.
It is essential for policymakers to consider the broader impact of such fees on public health, access to essential services, and the well-being of vulnerable populations. Access to healthcare is a right of all Kenyans and the government should ensure that strategies are put to encourage uptake.
The author is a youth activist on reproductive health based in Nairobi