BY EMMANUEL MWITA
The Coronavirus pandemic is having catastrophic impacts on the health of young women and girls. In such times of crisis, reproductive health services and commodities, such as family planning, have been overlooked, putting the health and lives of women at risk.
Women in marginalized communities are especially affected since they already face great obstacles accessing reproductive health information and services even at normal times.
Marginalized groups with low access to SRHR information and services include; the pregnant young girls and mothers, people with disability, sex workers, those living with HIV and AIDs, those living in high poverty areas and the LGBTI community.
Women leaders have underscored the importance of SRHR for the marginalized groups saying these needs are often neglected, noting that even basic necessities such as the menstrual hygiene supplies can be out of reach.
Recently there has been an outcry in the shortage of ARVs for HIV patients in the country – a situation that makes those living with HIV and AIDs especially vulnerable.
These healthcare inequalities can be attributed to income inequalities, insufficient health facilities, inadequate service providers, and congested hospitals due to COVID-19 just to name a few reasons.
Some of the challenges that these vulnerable groups face include; poor quality healthcare, resource gaps for those living in poverty, discrimination, stigma and dismissive attitude from service providers.
Many of those in these marginalized groups are seen as not being in need of SRHR information and services.
Marginalized groups of women and girls need to be empowered. They need to be heard. Ask them what they want, and the government should ensure that they a feel safe in their communities and other public spaces.
We should prioritize outreach and service provision to these groups. The healthcare services should also be tailored to the needs they express, be confidential and free of judgement or coercion.
Finally, health workers should also be trained and sensitized on working with and assisting these groups so that they enable the process rather than becoming obstacles to providing better care.
Mr Mwita is a NAYA Youth Advocate in Migori County