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How swelling lakes impact sex education

Health & Science
 Submerged building along Lake Bogoria. [File, Standard]

On a normal day, on a Tuesday afternoon, teenage girls from various schools would be flocking Loboi Health Centre for sex education.

But the entry is now dotted with footprints of hippos from Lake Bogoria as a result of the rising water levels.

The health centre in the hardy Baringo County is uninhabited. Floods have caused structural damage to it, ranging from the roof, walls, basement and floors, halting services. The effects of climate change are putting more pressure on Baringo county's healthcare system, with youth being the most vulnerable as they cannot access adolescent youth-friendly services.

Failure to access the services is linked to the rise in teen pregnancy, school dropout and early marriage.

At 18 years, Brian has become sexually active. But the teen from Loboi area in Baringo South is scared of buying protection from private chemists for fear of being stigmatised. He disclosed having had unprotected sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, whom he impregnated.

Sadly, Brian does not have a source of income to raise the unborn baby. "I do not have money for the upkeep of my baby. I have been looking for a job unsuccessfully." The Form Four leaver is slipping into depression, and fears being arrested after his girlfriend's family threatened to have him arrested. Brian said initially, he would pick up free condoms displayed in a corner at the hospital, but the services have since been halted, thanks to the rising waters.

"I visited a local chemist to buy a packet of condoms, but the attendant was too harsh, and instead, warned me against indulging in reckless sexual behaviour. I was turned off," narrates Brian.

He adds, "Had I used protection, my girlfriend would not be pregnant. I regret my actions."

Blocked access

Brian is not the only youth struggling to access adolescent and youth-friendly services. Hundreds of youth suffer silently, after a number of hospitals were submerged in water as a result of climate change. Data from the Department of Health indicates a rise in teen pregnancy in Baringo South in the past three years.

 Women wade along Lake Bogoria's broken banks. [File, Standard]

At least 3,779 teen pregnancies have been reported between 2020 and 2022. The data shows there are more cases in submerged areas.

Fancy Kiprotich says youth are no longer collecting free condoms to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms help to prevent unwanted pregnancy, more so among teens, and prevent STDs.

"Boys could walk to the hospital to pick condoms, but they cannot get the service. As we speak, they are engaging in unsafe sex because they are not able to buy condoms," says Kiprotich, a community health volunteer.

She says the supply of condoms and other contraceptives is key, especially in the area that is a tourist destination.

Girls from the age of 12 would previously be taken through sex education classes at the facility. "Girls trained about sex education are well equipped to avoid early pregnancy," Kiprotich said.

Tetanus jabs were also administered to females between the ages of nine and 45.

Other services that were offered include guiding and counselling, HIV/Aids talks, deliveries, and immunisation. The facility approximately served 500 households. But now, residents are forced to travel to Marigat hospital at a cost of Sh500.

Rising waters

Richard Tuitoek, the health service coordinator in Baringo South, said climate change has affected lakes Bogoria, Baringo, and Lake 1994. Rising waters at the lakes have submerged several facilities in the county among them Kambi ya Samaki Health Centre, Loboi, Ng'ambo, and Salabani.

Services at Kambi ya Samaki have been scaled down to outpatient. The facility used to offer maternity, immunisation, reproductive health, and treatment of common diseases.

Sirata dispensary is also on the verge of being submerged.

Following the flooding, Tuitoek said locals in the affected areas are forced to seek services in far-flung areas after local hospitals were submerged.

"There are temporary disruptions of health services, among them, reproductive health, that is hurting mothers more, and youth," said Tuitoek.

 Submerged building near Lake Bogoria, Baringo County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Everylne Lolgisoi, the sub-county Reproductive Health Coordinator said flooding has affected services, more so family planning, ANC services, and maternity. With floods, youth are skeptical on seeking reproductive health services, as they do not get the health practitioner they had built a rapport with.

"A youth-friendly facility must attract youth, and have privacy. It should also provide all the needed information," said Lolgisoi.

She added that service providers in the facilities should be able to respond to the needs of young people, allay their fears, respect their confidentiality, concerns and provide the services in an environment that suits their preference.

Part of the Kambi ya Samaki Dispensary compound is submerged.

Counter medication

Rael Chelagat, a local, told The Standard that it is worrying that patients resort to counter medication whenever they get sick. The hospital used to offer delivery services, immunisation, guiding and counselling, snake bite treatments, and family planning, among others.

"Contraceptives have become a big challenge for us, even among our teenagers because they cannot access condoms.

"We have teenagers who are sexually active, and we can do nothing about that. This is why we need condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies," she said.

Louis Juma said lake waters have been rising since 2011, but it worsened in 2020, submerging the hospital, and several businesses. Juma says being at the shores of the lake, there is need to have a hospital for emergency purposes, as a number of fishermen and boat riders are victims of hippo and snake bites.

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