Prioritize sexual and reproductive health agenda in Covid-19 guidelines, State urged


Stakeholders from various organizations are now calling upon the government to put more emphasis on the sexual and reproductive health considering the impact that the pandemic has caused in the health sector.

Speaking during a virtual stakeholders’ forum hosted by New Faces New Voices Kenya, on the impact of Covid- 19 on sexual and reproductive health rights, (UNFPA) Kenya Programme Coordinator Dr. Rael Mutai said that the disruptions brought about by Covid-19 have resulted to maternal health medics being reassigned to Covid- 19 response teams.

“Ante-natal and post-natal visits have drastically gone down. Women are no longer visiting hospitals for their check-ups or their children’s fear of exposure to coronavirus infections. This is a red flag as it could cause maternal and child mortality,” said (UNFPA) Kenya Programme Coordinator Dr. Rael Mutai.

She further adds that most maternal health clinics have not resumed their normal operations and may only open ahead of curfew time, inconveniencing most women to access the facilities for assistance in contraceptive methods and child’s healthcare.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its publication “Reproductive Health for Communities in Crisis” states that in a time of crisis reproductive health needs are likely to be overlooked.

“Providing reproductive healthcare services through the crisis means at the very minimum, the public health sector is able to address complications of pregnancy and delivery, the transmission of sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS, adolescent sexual and reproductive health concerns, and access to condoms and other contraceptives.”

According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 2014, the maternal mortality ratio was 362 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, which accounts for 14 per cent of all deaths to women age 15-49.

These figures have increased exponentially due to the current Covid- 19 pandemic that has brought socio-economic challenges to most households, following government’s directives to impose on partial lockdown.

“Due to job losses, women no longer get their daily wages and the little they get go to providing food for their families over acquiring sanitary towels. With schools closed and movement restrictions across counties, vulnerable girls in urban slums and rural areas are really in dire need of financial and menstrual health support,” lamented Inua Dada Founder Janet Mbugua

She further adds; “most women and girls, especially those living in the informal settlements are suffering from ‘period poverty’, a setback that has resulted to young girls engaging in transactional sex for money in order to not only access sanitary products but also to support their families.”

According to Plan International Gender and Inclusion Specialist Banu Khan, the recent statistics revealed on teenage pregnancy in Machakos County alone were perturbing.

“Child pregnancy and unsafe abortions continue to intensify, as millions of children continue to spend most of their free time at home unsupervised,” She said.

A fact sheet by the World Health Organisation states that at least 10 million unintended pregnancies occur each year among adolescent girls aged 15–19 years in the developing world. Of the estimated 5.6 million abortions that occur each year, 3.9 million are unsafe, contributing to maternal mortality, morbidity and lasting health problems.

“While schools provided a safe haven from peer support networks and studies that keep children engaged, the long duration closure has brought with it risks of sexual violence from perpetrators close to them. We must advocate for systems to address this complex issue to protect our children and their future,” said Khan.

The situation is not different in South Africa. Khuluka Foundation’s Josina Machel says that a recent demise of over 10 women attributed to cases of widespread violence against women in South Africa, in June alone.

“These circumstances have caused a public uproar prompting the South African Deputy President David Mabuza to make an appeal to members of parliament. For us the time to talk on issues of gender-based violence is over, time is of the essence, we need to act now and act decisively in tackling all challenges faced by the women of our country,” Says Machel.

“Collaborative partnerships and social-economic mobilisation with non-governmental organisations, community based organisations and private sector will enhance policy implementation towards creating state-run safe facilities and economic empowerment to the vulnerable. This should not only be enacted during Covid- 19 season, but also a strategized lasting resolution for structured reproductive healthcare systems, “says New Faces New Voices Kenya.