Adolescence (10-19 years old) is a unique period of physical, psychological, emotional, and social maturation from childhood to adulthood, with unique challenges and risks. These risks include early pregnancies, high maternal mortality rates, unsafe abortions, and high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Solutions for Supporting Healthy Adolescents and Rights Protection (SHARP) is a four-year programme, funded by the European Union, dedicated to improving adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) and address their high unmet need for family planning.

Working across six countries of Africa’s Great Lakes Region (Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia), the SHARP project brings together a unique group of organisations that include adolescent, commodity, gender, SRH and faith experts with a wide constituency and track record in advocacy for improved budgets and policy implementation at the subnational, national and regional levels.

The chief objective of the programme is to improve both the supply side of SRH (availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of services and commodities) for adolescents, in particular for girls. At the same time, increase demand for SRH services, through convincing religious and socio-cultural intervention.

WHY THE GREAT LAKES?

The Great Lakes region is marred by health inequality, with socio-economic divides and large adolescent populations. Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on ASRH in the region. In Kenya, for example, 15.8% of adolescent girls didn’t use family planning because they feared contracting COVID-19 at the facility, while in DRC, 54% of women who needed a health facility during COVID-19 restrictions experienced difficulties with access. Coupled with this, there was an increase in teenage pregnancies. Meanwhile, even before the pandemic, research by Health Action International (HAI) showed that the availability of SRH commodities in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia was poor, at less than 50%.

ASRH policies are relatively strong in the GLR countries, but implementation remains poor, often due to limited investment and low political prioritisation. At the regional level, several policy harmonisation efforts need to be brought to fruition if they are to have an impact on SRH at national level. Of course, traditional knowledge, attitude, belief and practice (KABP) also influences SRH, with the majority of the region’s population identifying as having religious or traditional faith, which influence adolescents’ choices when it comes to SRH and family planning.

Here you will find stories, research and other information related key to supporting healthy adolescents.

This webpage was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Health Action International and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.