BY CALVINCE ORWA
Migori County has a high prevalence of adolescent pregnancy at 20.8% as of 2020, and low access to and use of adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health services.
Despite the existence of the Migori County Multi-Sectoral Action Plan 2018-2022 whose mandate is to Improve the health and wellbeing of Adolescents as well as having passed the sexual gender-based violence policy 2019, adolescents continue to face a myriad of health problems and barriers to adolescent sexual reproductive health information and services.
Young people comprise 49% of the total population and 25% being between 10-19 years in Migori County.
This segment of the population is at high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS whose prevalence is currently at 13.3% against the national average of 5.6% while female adolescents face the additional risk of early pregnancy, unsafe abortion and female genital mutilation.
In Kenya, the age of sexual debut is low; 47% of young women and 55% of young men between the ages of 18–24 years reported sexual intercourse before the age of 18 years.
Consequently, pregnancy among adolescents aged 15–19 years continues to be a significant problem in Migori County, with a teenage pregnancy rate of 20.8% and an adolescent birth rate of 96 per 1,000 women according to Migori County Multisectoral Action Plan mid-term evaluation report, July 2018 to December 2020.
Teenage pregnancy increases the risk of maternal mortality and morbidity, unsafe abortion, prolonged labour and delivery, and sepsis during the postnatal period.
Teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of school and have reduced career progression and economic empowerment, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Adolescents also experience a high rate of violence, with the 2019 report of violence against children indicating that sexual violence was experienced by 15.6% of females and 6.4% of males before age 18 years in Kenya.
To address these challenges, Migori county needs to double down on the implementation of various existing policies as well as the allocation of funds to these interventions.
Some of the policies whose implementation is yet to be felt in the county include the Migori County Policy on Sexual Gender Based Violence 2019 and The National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy.
It is time to move beyond intention to action. Young lives are at stake. The future of the country depends on this. As the country gets into election mode in 2022, I urge young people to separate the talkers from the doers when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
Mr Orwa is a Migori-based youth advocate at the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA Kenya)