According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 60% of the Kenyan population is young people below the age of 24 years. This means that we cannot ignore them or their needs at all because they are the future of this nation. Any development agenda in Kenya must address their needs including sexual and reproductive health as part of accomplishing the sustainable development goals.
In Kenya, 44% of adolescents have never heard about any contraceptive method. Young people below the age of 24 years account for 70% of all the pregnancies in Kenya and these pregnancies are usually unintended. Furthermore unsafe abortions and complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15 to19-year-old girls. Moreover young people account for 29% of all new HIV infections and 16% of all people in need of ART are adolescents and the youth.
Failure to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people has serious negative implication to the nation, community and family. It means we will have almost half of the entire population in Kenya at risk of getting infected with HIV, STIs and having unintended pregnancies which leads to school dropout, unsafe abortion and complication during birth leading to death. They say a healthy nation is a rich nation but when we have almost half of the entire population sick then we are more likely to languish in poverty. It means we will have no future at all.
The future of Kenya depends on its ability to invest on youth sexual and reproductive health. Making the right investments in youth particularly on effective sexual and reproductive health can help mitigate these risks. Research shows that these investments protect the well-being of young people, maximize their potential for healthy productive lives and improve social and economic development.
The national and county governments should invest more on sexual and reproductive health for young people. What young people need is comprehensive sexuality education, youth friendly centers and quality sexual and reproductive health services.
Young people know what they want and the government should listen to them since they have a right to be heard. We might be a population in need but I believe we have the solutions to our own problems. Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services and information is a human right and we are entitled to it.
The government should protect the health and well-being of young people by ensuring they access quality, accurate, stigma free and affordable sexual and reproductive health services and information. Investing on young people’s health is the best gift the government could ever give to young people.
Finally the government should involve young people in the designing, implementation and evaluation of sexual and reproductive health policies and programs.
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