By: Victor Sijenyi, KAYSRHR Network

The kind of experience a young person often has when visiting a Kenyan health facility is just a nightmare. This is even more the case if you go for reproductive health issues.  

Some young people report that health officers become arrogant. We have had young people failing to go for their health checkups because of the incompetence of health officers and lack of confidentiality. Some young people have had health officers even come out of the office, and announce their diagnosis to the entire clinic. This is humiliating, stigmatizing and against every ethical code of conduct.  

Young people often encounter long queues, receive improper drug prescriptions, face drug stock-outs, and generally receive poor services.

We may blame the health officers for all of this, and for their lack of “know how” to speak to and support young people, but that is not enough. It’s actually bigger than that; We went deep into these issues and realized it’s all about funding, government priorities, and the real needs of the people. Most government priorities are never directed into investing or allocating funds to the services, drugs and providers we need; instead they channel most of their allocated funds towards roads and constructions that may never reach completion.

The government also pays health service providers a very low salary, which causes health officers to lose their passion and lack motivation. This in turn leads to the delivery of poor services. We see each year the nurses association on the roads demonstrating against working conditions, poor payment structure, and un-honored memos between them and the government. The health officers also have had issues with the decisions that the government makes in their field without inviting them to contribute.

In order to create change on these issues, as a popular youth reproductive health network, the KAYSRHR Network, we have independently worked with our member organizations in different counties and regions to advocate for funds to be responsibly and accurately allocated for youth friendly services in our health facilities.

We called for health budgets in over five counties to increase the amount of money set aside for contraceptives and general youth friendly services as well as youth-only spaces within health facilities to provide a safe and welcoming space. We also stressed the need for the government to provide better motivation to the health workers, to employ a specialized team to handle youth issues and to provide more training to health officers.

We currently have a program in six counties - Kajiado, Machakos, Nairobi, Kiambu, Nyeri and Kirinyaga - where Kenya is piloting a Universal Health Coverage [UHC] scheme and where we aim to collect youth perspectives on health service provision.

Hopefully through data collection and advocacy, we can turn youth visits to health centers from nightmares into dreams.