CRUCIAL

Include sexual and reproductive health in UHC

In Summary
  • It’s important that apart from cancer, reproductive health be included and prioritised in UHC
  • It’s totally unacceptable that some members of our communities face death, disability, ill-health, or impoverishment for reasons that could be addressed at a limited cost 

In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared universal health coverage a national priority and part of the Big 4 agenda. The primary goal of UHC is to make health free and accessible at the point of need. The global agenda for UHC is to ensure people have access to healthcare without suffering financial hardship. In Kenya, health is a huge development issue and there exist multiple laws, policies, and guidelines that seek to support the improvement of healthcare for all.

The Constitution indicates reproductive health and rights in a number of provisions, including guaranteeing the right to non-discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and liberalising access to sexual and reproductive health by expanding the grounds on (Articles 26 [4] and 27 [4]). This emphasis was not a coincidence but done consciously and intentionally in the attempt to address marginalisation and neglect of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Kenya.

Therefore, the move towards UHC as a tool towards the progressive realisation of the right to health has been met with hopefulness, though cautiously. To address UHC and ensure its effective implementation, it’s important to have reproductive healthcare at the centre.

Making healthcare both physically and financially accessible, especially to the most marginalised and vulnerable is important.

We have witnessed instances of pregnant young women unable to access antenatal care due to financial constraints, many dying in houses due to lack of medication. Many unsafe abortions are done for as little as Sh200 leading to a ruptured uterus, overbleeding, sepsis, or, unfortunately, death.

It’s important that apart from cancer, reproductive health be included and prioritised in UHC. It’s totally unacceptable that some members of our communities face death, disability, ill-health, or impoverishment for reasons that could be addressed at a limited cost. 

Reproductive health services need to be prioritised and made accessible to all, including HIV and STI testing and treatment post-abortion services, contraception and maternal care through national health insurance coverage.

This requires resources and commitment from the government, so that communities can make uncoerced decisions about their sexual health and have sufficient mobility to access those services.

Youth advocate at Reproductive Health Network Kenya