The Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for accessible, affordable, non-judgmental, non-discriminative highest attainable standards of healthcare including reproductive health.

However, we have failed terribly as a country in prioritizing reproductive health services and information to men and women residing in areas affected by humanitarian crises caused by climate change, inter-communal wars, post-election violence, and natural calamities.

A huge section of Kenya’s topography is arid and semi-arid areas (ASAL); these areas hardly receive enough rainfall to sustain vegetation, clean drinking water, and water for livestock consumption.

More often, the ASAL areas are greatly affected by droughts, and cattle rustling, and therefore men and women keep migrating in search of water and greener pasture for their livestock to survive. 

In some parts of ASAL areas like the interior parts of Kilifi County, residents undertake subsistence farming of maize and beans, which eventually dry up due to lack of adequate rainfall.

In Kenya, it is estimated that 3.1 million people are experiencing humanitarian crisis and little is done to address their suffering and situation. The aid that the government and non-governmental organizations always provide is not always enough to sustain the citizens in ASAL regions.

The aid is often short on reproductive health and other primary healthcare services. More importantly, it is worth noting that humanitarian crisis do not hibernate residents’ reproductive health needs.

In fact, the humanitarian crisis singled out the prioritization of reproductive health services over food and water. A woman in humanitarian crisis-stricken areas will spend all their hard-earned money on buying food that reaches their places at an added cost at the expense of the repeat clinic for contraceptives.

Mark you, the distance to the nearest healthcare facility is very long and denies AGYWs access to lifesaving reproductive health services.

Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYWs) in humanitarian crisis continue to register adverse reproductive health outcomes largely due to inequalities of timely access to comprehensive reproductive health services.

By extension, the triple threat that encompasses new HIV infections, unplanned pregnancy, and sexual gender-based violence is very mind-boggling in ASAL areas. According to UNFPA, over 500 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every day in humanitarian and fragile settings.

The Reproductive Health Policy’s (2022-2032) overall goal is to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in Kenya. If we go by the same trend of depriving girls and women in humanitarian settings of access to reproductive health services, very little gains will be achieved in reducing the 352 deaths per 100,000 live births among AGYWs.

Moreover, there will be no universal health coverage by sidelining the resident going through a humanitarian crisis, because the affordability of healthcare services is core in UHC.

There is a dire need for the county department of health, the ministry of the health division in charge of reproductive health, and civil society organization to focus their pool of resources on the provision of timely sexual reproductive health services in ASAL areas grappling with a humanitarian crisis.

By Treeza Auma

Treeza Auma is a Digital Content Producer and founder of KTMN She is also Television journalist at Kenya News Agency and Leadership Accelerator at Women in News.

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