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Author Archives: Michael Okunson

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Universal access to SRHR is the bedrock of gender equality and economic development

Category : Naya Blog

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are inextricably linked to larger development goals like reducing poverty, achieving better health and ensuring equal rights for women and girls. Access to SRHR, including family planning, is essential to reduce poverty, increase education and professional opportunities and attainment for girls and women in all settings. When women are able to voluntarily decide about the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, their children are healthier and better educated, leading to better outcomes across whole families and entire communities.

Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is the bedrock of gender equality, economic development and progress for all. When sexual and reproductive health and rights are violated, women, children and adolescents—particularly girls—are unable to achieve their full potential. Resulting unintended pregnancies—and associated infections—too often end in pre-mature death or debilitation due to complications or unsafe abortions. When they don’t, new mothers are often unable to pursue an education or a career, limiting economic participation in their community. Lack of comprehensive SRHR services perpetuates a vicious cycle that further marginalizes women and girls.

Universal access to contraceptive information, services and quality, affordable supplies is a basic human right. Greater investments are needed in human rights-based programming to ensure gender-inclusive and age-specific services that enable women and girls to obtain their full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health is Essential For Kenya’s Development

Category : Naya Blog

Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services means that enough services and information are available, accessible and acceptable to meet the different needs of all individuals. This requires that people can safely reach services without travelling for a long time or distance, and that those with disabilities can easily access buildings. Services and treatments must be affordable, and based on principles of equity such that poor people do not bear a higher burden from the cost than more wealthy people. Care should also be sensitive to social and cultural considerations including gender, language and religion.

Universal access to SRH requires that services are of adequate quality (availability of skilled medical personnel, approved and unexpired drugs and equipment, proper infrastructure including safe water and sanitation); and that providers do not discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender, ethnicity and age.

In Kenya, perceived poor quality of services, inappropriate treatment and discrimination by health professionals deters many people from using and accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

Lack of access to SRH services and information contributes to high levels of morbidity and mortality for largely preventable SRH problems in Kenya. Every year, thousands of women die during childbirth because there is not a skilled attendant present at the birth, and insufficient provision of condoms has contributed to the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Restrictions on information about sexuality, contraception, prevention and healthcare, limit people’s ability to make choices regarding their own sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Ensuring universal access to SRH services and information is essential for achieving many, if not all, of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those on maternal health, child survival, HIV and AIDS and gender equality. Most maternal deaths can be prevented if there is skilled attendance at birth to cope with potentially fatal complications. Access to safe and effective family planning services and contraception empowers women to have more control over when to have children and lessens the incidence of unsafe abortions. Also, contraception can help reduce the transmission of STIs, including HIV. At a macro level, lower levels of maternal mortality and slower population growth increase social and economic development and reduce poverty.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Ramp up investment and support for sexual and reproductive health of women

Category : Naya Blog

Enabling Kenyan women to plan their pregnancies and ensuring healthy births would reap tremendous returns. If all 2.5 million women with an unmet need for modern contraception (KDHS 2014) were to practice contraception, unintended pregnancies would drop by 70% and unsafe abortions would decline by 74% leading to large and immediate health gains.

Fully meeting the unmet need for maternal and newborn health services would also lead to sizable declines in poor health outcomes in the country. But because preventing unintended pregnancy is in itself a key component of improving maternal and newborn health outcomes, fully meeting the need for contraceptive care and maternal and newborn health care services simultaneously could achieve more dramatic improvements than investing in either one separately.

In particular, fully meeting the need for these services, including HIV related care for pregnant women and their newborns would mean:

  • maternal deaths would drop by two-thirds;
  • newborn deaths would drop by three-fourths;
  • the burden of disability related to pregnancy and delivery experienced by women and newborns would drop by three-fourths; and
  • mother-to-newborn HIV transmission would be nearly eliminated.

Beyond all of these direct and striking health gains, there is a bounty of other social and economic returns Kenya could yield by meeting women’s sexual and reproductive health needs. These benefits are felt from the micro to the macro level, by women, their families and their communities.

When their needs are met, women and children are more likely to be able to stay in school and gain an education, which in turn will have a positive impact on their future labor force participation and earnings. Women experience an increase in social status, self-esteem and gender equity. Families face fewer orphaned children, and households can boost their savings and assets. Societies undergo improved living conditions, reduced poverty and fewer strains on environmental resources. All of these rippling benefits directly affect other global development goals.

Fundamentally, women everywhere want and acutely need sexual and reproductive health services to lead healthy sexual lives, have the number of children they want when they want them, deliver their babies safely and ensure that their newborns thrive. Policymakers and other stakeholders at national and county governments have a responsibility to ramp up investment and support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, because all have a stake in the cascade of benefits that accrue to women, children, families, communities and the Country.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Ministry of Health should adopt standards and guidelines to combat unsafe abortion

Category : Naya Blog

With abortion-related causes accounting for an estimated 25 percent of maternal mortality in Kenya, the Ministry of Health should adopt, approve and implement the national standards and guidelines aimed at reducing deaths and injuries caused by unsafe abortion.

Once these guidelines are approved, they must be implemented in all health facilities across the country. These guidelines must be designed to improve the health system’s capacity to deliver safe abortion care and to increase community awareness about the dangers of unsafe abortion. They should systematically address unsafe abortion by improving services related to reducing unwanted pregnancies and expanding access to safe, legal abortion care, including post abortion family planning services.

To show a common commitment in reducing grossly high maternal death rates from unsafe abortion in this country, the ministry of health must provide quality reproductive health care services, including the provision of safe abortion services which are fundamental human rights.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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Invest more on youth friendly services to win the fight against HIV and AIDS

Category : Naya Blog

 

Despite major progress made in the fight against HIV, HIV and AIDS still remains among the most significant public health challenges for Kenya. The possibility of an HIV-free Kenya by 2030 could be slowed down by the fact that not all people living with HIV have accessed care and treatment services.

 

In Kenya, an estimated 1.6 million people, or roughly four per cent of the population are living with HIV. Every year an average of 89,000 adults and about 11,000 children in Kenya are infected with HIV. Over 680,000 persons living with HIV, including 60,000 children aged 0-14 have received antiretroviral treatment.

 

Kenyan youth, especially young women, are the most at risk age group for new HIV infections according to data published by the National AIDS Control Council. Young people between the age of 15-24 account for 52% of all new HIV infections in Kenya.

 

Lack of access to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services responsive to their special needs has contributed to these high numbers. According to the Ministry of Health’s own assessment through the Kenya Service Provision Assessment Survey of 2010, only 7% of public health facilities have the ability to offer youth friendly services.

 

This lack of access to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services means that young people do not have adequate physical facilities where they can go to seek services. It also means that they don’t have access to enough healthcare workers trained and experienced in handling their unique needs.

 

As a result of these deficiencies, the youth, more often than not, cannot access information about their sexual and reproductive health. More crucially, it also means that there are barriers to access of HIV prevention options like condoms and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP) or treatment options like Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) among others.

 

To win the fight against HIV and AIDS, Kenya must start by consistently investing resources for youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services. Also National and county governments have to consistently invest in social and behavior change communication programmes to influence young people to make informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health.

 

One tangible and achievable commitment that we can make as a nation is to provide Kenya’s youth with youth friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services. This commitment will no doubt go a long way in helping them beat the threat of HIV and AIDS.

 

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)


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FOCUS ON PREVENTION TO STOP GENDER BASED VIOLENCE

Category : Naya Blog

Gender based violence(GBV) is any act that result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life perpetrated against a person based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females.

GBV is one of the most widespread and socially tolerated forms of human rights violations, cutting across nationality, race, class, ethnicity, and religion. It is a major source of inequality in Kenya today. It has a profound social and economic impact on families, communities, and the entire nation, as well as serious ramifications on national security.

Gender based violence in Kenya, as elsewhere in the world, is a complex issue that has at its root structural inequalities between men and women, young and old. This results in the persistence of power differentials between the sexes. According to the Gender Violence Recovery Centre(GVRC),  men are the main perpetrators of violence. 90% of GBV perpetrators are usually men.

Gender based violence remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time.  Some of the violations meted on girls and women here in Kenya despite being outlawed include, child marriages, female genital mutilation and sex trafficking.

According to the Kenya demographic health survey, about 39 percent of women and girls in Kenya aged 15 and above have experienced physical violence, with approximately one in four experiencing such violence each year.

Kenya has made significant strides regarding GBV and other health-related human rights. From policies and laws to establishment of gender based violence recovery centers to awareness creation, both the state and non-state actors are doing all they can to ensure that women’s rights are respected and protected.

However, the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes.

Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged.

By Michael Okun Oliech (@MikeOkunson)