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Kenya must step up her reproductive health efforts

By Marion Muringe | November 5th 2021

Marion Muringe - is a human rights lawyer and a Programme Associate at Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDS [Courtesy]

“Women and girls are the true owners of their own bodies, and reaching SDG 5 is the key to reaching the other SDGs... We can only be here in 2030 if we are celebrating the finished unfinished business... Let us march and unite in this moment of solidarity across the globe so women can make informed choices.” - Denmark’s Minister of Development Cooperation Rasmus Prehn, at the ICPD+25 Summit in 2019.

The spirit of this statement featured prominently in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD+25) - Nairobi Summit in November of 2019.

The summit drew together State and non-State actors from the global north and global south. It resulted in progressive commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) by countries, civil society, private sector and influential individuals.

Kenya made 17 commitments towards five broad themes within the ICPD programme of action. These are: access to quality healthcare, ending FGM and child marriages, heightened efforts towards ending GBV and a collective effort towards gender equality. Maternal healthcare is a key component of the government’s Big Four Agenda. Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio is 362 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Key factors contributing to this include severe bleeding and sepsis linked to unsafe abortions. Additionally, in provision of quality SRHR, arbitrary and inhumane detention of women post-delivery and other Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) care and services – remain a unceasing practice in health facilities despite being outlawed.

There is also inadequate budgetary allocation to reproductive healthcare at county and national levels. Kenya’s non-donor funded health budget is not adequate to meet the well-meaning ICPD+25 commitments.

The commitments also entailed ensuring adolescents attain the highest possible standard of health. Kenya has high cases of adolescent girls’ early and unintended pregnancies. No better period demonstrated need to safeguard adolescents than the Covid-19 pandemic. Early, unplanned and unintended pregnancies among adolescents skyrocketed, leading to an increase of unsafe abortions.

Nearly 2,600 girls die annually from complications arising from unsafe abortions and more are subjected to other  complications. More than 54 per cent of adolescents and youth have no access to contraceptives which puts them at risk of STIs/STDs including HIV and unplanned pregnancies.

Kenya promised to end GBV by 2030, however 45 per cent of women have been subjected to physical violence and 14 per cent are survivors of sexual violence.

The development of the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015 was a step forward however Kenya is yet to put it into practice. The Act seeks to protect the rights of survivors of violence however the provisions therein are yet to be fully operationalised and only Makueni and Homa Bay counties have developed state-funded safe houses/shelters for survivors.

Kenya has made commendable commitments on reproductive health, but there is also a lack of political goodwill to accelerate implementation.

-The writer is a human rights lawyer and a Programme Associate at Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDS


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