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.
We often encounter long queues, receive improper drug prescriptions of drugs, face drugs being out of stock, and generally receive poor services. We may blame the health officers for all these situations, and for their lack of “know how” to speak to and support young people, but that is not enough. It is actually bigger than that – it is 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 for the people, drugs and service providers we need; instead they channel most of their allocated funds towards roads and construction that may never reach completion.
The government also pays health service providers very low wages, which causes health officers to lose their passion and lack motivation. This in turn leads to the poor services being offered. We see each year the nurses association on the roads demonstrating against poor 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 initiative, 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 advocated 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 heath facilities to provide a safe and welcoming space. We also stressed the need for the government to provide better motivation to health workers, to employ a specialized team to handle youth issues and to provide training to health officers.
Because we understand how important health care is to each one of us. Each Kenyan citizen according to our constitution should have access to standardized health care, and we will not sit quiet and hope that someone else makes our constitution a reality.
Victor Sijenyi is the Chair at Kasarani Youth Empowerment Centre and a volunteer at OAYOUTH Kenya | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org