Working with in-country implementing partners, we are working to increase demand and supply to crucial services and commodities, including family planning, for adolescents in the Great Lakes Region.
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.
The project is implemented across six countries of Africa’s Great Lakes Region, namely Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. The SHARP project brings together a wide array of organisations with a 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.
WHAT DOES SHARP DO?
Our in-country implementing partners advocate towards duty-bearers for them to develop or improve national and regional budgets and policies that advance ASRH, as well as ensuring that health service providers have quality assured ASRH services and commodities available. SHARP also seeks to use inclusive multi-sector platforms to address ASHR and amplify the voices of key opinion leaders, including youth.
Baseline research has been undertaken in all six countries on the availability and affordability of crucial SRH commodities, as well as surveys into healthcare worker attitudes. Browse through the research here.
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.
Browse below to find stories, research and other information key to supporting healthy adolescents.