Poverty and gender inequalities are fuelling high rates of unintended pregnancies and HIV in Homa Bay County.
The report was commissioned by Homa Bay County Government and done by the Overseas Development Institute and LVCT Health, with support from UNICEF.
The report shows that youth aged 15-24 contribute to 13 per cent of the total number of HIV infections amongst 15-49-year olds in the county.
“We must take urgent steps to make sure children and young people receive the information and support they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and HIV,” said Maniza Zaman, UNICEF Representative to Kenya.
“This is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic when safety nets like families and schools have been affected,” added Maniza Zaman.
Many girls told researchers they lacked access to, or awareness of, relevant HIV, sexual and reproductive health services.
The study found that adolescent girls are at risk of sexual violence increasing their risk of HIV and unintended pregnancy.
Violence and sexual abuse of under-age girls are often not reported due to fears of stigma and prejudice or fear of retaliation from the wider community.
“We need a society-wide shift for men, women, girls and boys to all understand the risks young people face and to challenge harmful gender norms,” said Richard Muga, Head of Health Services in Homa Bay County, who commissioned the report.
Poor sex and reproductive health education in schools, which is not equipping adolescents with the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe.
UNICEF is advocating for the Government and partners to urgently implement the report’s key recommendations.
“We commend the County Government of Homa Bay for commissioning this crucial report that can help address the issue of teen pregnancies,” Maniza Zaman said. “We look forward to working together to improve services for young people and to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe and healthy, giving them the best chance in life.”
By Christabel Airo