By Antony Njuguana, Youth Empowerment Movement Kenya

Kenya has accelerated progress toward universal health coverage (UHC), both in terms of expanding coverage of quality health services and reducing financial hardship to ensure people are not pushed into poverty because of the cost of healthcare. Unfortunately, the crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted Kenya’s progress towards UHC. There is need of creative and innovative methods of achieving equitable access to health, especially sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) for youth and adolescents, 75% of Kenya’s total population of 47.6 million people are adolescents and youth. Self-care is a solution to meeting the health needs of adolescents and youth and is a way to advance progress towards UHC. 

At Youth Empowerment Movement Kenya (YEM Kenya), we mobilize and equip adolescent and youth voices into youth empowerment platforms, programs, and initiatives in community and development work to be social agents of change through use of evidence-based programs in delivering quality SRHR content. 

In partnership with Zamara Foundation, and in support of WGNRR Africa, YEM Kenya under the #YouCAN project aims at strengthening alliances among partners in East Africa in countering stigma and discrimination faced by young people in accessing comprehensive sexuality education, contraceptives, safe abortion and post abortion care, so that young people can take charge of their health and wellbeing. Through our work, we’ve seen how self-care plays a critical need in meeting the health needs of youth and adolescents. Here are a few examples of how self-care is an essential part of UHC. 

Increasing use of modern contraceptives by adolescents who want to avoid pregnancy save lives and improve the health of adolescents. If all unmet need for modern contraception among adolescents were satisfied, unintended pregnancies would drop by 69% in Kenya. Improving access to contraception, through allowing self-injection of contraception and making it easier to access contraception at pharmacies, can meet adolescents’ need for contraceptives in an easy and user friendly approach.

HIV self-testing improves access to those most underserved and reaches people earlier in their infection, so that they can derive maximum benefit from early antiretroviral treatment. Recent studies on the use of HIV self-tests suggest that the availability of a simple and discreet way to know their status themselves may be one of the keys to dramatically increasing the number of adolescents who take a test and go on to access support and further HIV testing, prevention, treatment and care.

Self‐managed abortion allows women to take abortion medication in the privacy of their own homes and with support from their friends, partners, or family, if desired. Further, self‐administration allows women to manage their own health, specifically having a choice in and control over their pregnancy termination procedures. It also reduces the burden on the healthcare system, particularly in low‐resource settings, where there are insufficient providers to administer safe abortions, as well as reducing the burden on women, who may have significant socio-economic constraints to accessing facility‐based abortions, including transportation and medical costs.

These are but a few benefits that adolescents and youth get through self-care interventions in SRHR. The evidence is clear that self-care improves healthcare for the youth and allows them to take control of their health. As we work to achieve UHC, we need to ensure self-care products that meet the needs of youth and adolescents are included because youth are the future, but they also have healthcare needs today.


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