Reproductive, Child, Adolescents Health and Nutrition Unit
The unit’s aim is to strengthen the implementation of Regional Integrated Sexual, Reproductive Health and Rights initiatives and programmes by advocating for and facilitating the development, adoption, harmonisation and dissemination of policies, quality standards and guidelines for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) priority issues, including gender health issues in the region.
Currently, the unit is implementing three (3) projects namely:
Invest in Adolescents: Building Advocacy Capacity in East Africa
This is a European Commission supported project, in the EAC Partner States, implemented in partnership with the Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW).
The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the improvement of adolescent and youth SRHR and ultimately, the achievement of the MDGs 3, 5 and 6 as well as promoting a holistic approach to SRHR in line with the principles of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the ICPD+5 Programme of Action.
Specifically, the SRHR project aims at building the individual competences, collective capabilities and overall capacity of adolescent and youth serving Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) necessary to advocate effectively for the development and implementation of adolescent and youth sensitive SRHR policies, programs and budgets. The project recognises that adolescent and youth SRHR needs are poorly understood and their contribution to decision-making processes is minimal. Although in East Africa the young are increasingly involved in voluntary activities that promote both their development and that of their communities (e.g. as volunteers in health centres, home-based caregivers for HIV & AIDS patients and as heads of households), their involvement in decision-making processes and advocacy strategies remains nevertheless often token.
Because they lack the skills to articulate and communicate their needs, their understanding of and ability to contribute to local and national civic processes is limited. Involvement of knowledgeable and empowered adolescents and youth is crucial to strengthen SRHR. The project will achieve its objective through the following three main ways:
- Developing SRHR advocacy and funding capacity of adolescent serving CSOs through workshops and networking;
- Increasing Youth Organisation’s representatives’ capacity to comprehend, articulate and communicate their needs in order to contribute meaningfully to local and national civic processes through peer education programmes and trainings; and
- Building an enabling environment for networking, dialogue, and South-to-South learning and collaboration through a range of activities involving the three stakeholders.
The project works to ensure access of SRHR for all, including adolescents and youth by advocating for the scale up of cost effective interventions, political commitment that translates into policy and action, and availability of adequate resources. The project recognises the comparative advantage of adolescent and youth serving CSOs and therefore, focuses on building their capacity and enhancing their great potential and advocacy capacity to ensure that SRHR policies, programmes and budgets better reflect adolescent SRHR needs. In addition, the project also aims enhancing the capacity of adolescents and as well as decision-makers.
The project is expected to achieve the following results:
- 125+ adolescent and youth serving CSOs lobby more effectively for adolescent SRHR.
- 2000+ adolescents and youth are reached through peer education programs of 200 Youth Organisations. 250 young people are made into champions and leaders.
- Support for adolescent and youth SRHR needs by 250 decision makers is reflected in their policies and budgets.
East African Community – International Planned Parenthood Federation - United Nations Population Fund Collaboration
This collaboration involves the following three initiatives:
- Strengthening of Human Resource capacity of EAC Health Department;
- Review and implementation of SRHR Strategic plan; and
- Advocacy with the EAC Regional Inter-Parliamentary Forum on Health, Population and Development (EALA and EAC Partners States National Parliaments) plus EAC Sectoral Council of Health and forum of Ministers responsible for Social Development.
The Open Health Initiative
The third project under the Reproductive Health Unit is the Open Health Initiative whose overall goal is to contribute to the improvement of maternal and child health and ultimately, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 within the EAC Partner States.
More specifically, the objectives of this initiative are to promote innovative interventions and enhance access to data and information for better results, better tracking of resources and stronger oversight of results and resources for women’s and children’s health nationally and regionally within the EAC Partner States.
This regional approach could greatly serve to leverage the tremendous efforts already on-going across all countries in the region. For example, this regional initiative will:
- Increase Value for Money: Across all EAC countries, numerous and often similar initiatives and pilots are being implemented to tackle MDGs 4 and 5. The high up-front investment costs (i.e. time spent designing an intervention, testing it, evaluating it) could be reduced if these were shared across the region: a successful intervention in one country could lead it to being more rapidly adapted and / or adopted in another country if shared appropriately. Though each country has indeed its own specificities, many of the challenges are nonetheless similar and we do need to ‘re-invent’ the wheel every time. Similarly, investments in new systems, tools, technologies could benefit from greater economies of scale, in particular in the areas of e-health.
- Leverage Political Momentum: The ‘Open Health Initiative’ is also a way to increase political commitments, generate greater political momentum towards reaching MDGs 4 and 5, and raising the profile of some of the thematic areas beyond the health sector. Furthermore, in order to more quickly address some critical issues – such as greater transparency and accountability - the five EAC Partner States would stand to gain by speaking as one voice, both internally as well as when engaging with external partners.
- Learn and Scale-up: All five EAC Partner States are making progress towards MDGs 4 and 5. At current rates, however, most will not reach these goals by 2015. This approach seeks to harness what has already been achieved in each country and leverage that across the region in order to accelerate scale-up. Networking, sharing of lessons learnt and facilitating scale-up could make a dramatic difference as the countdown to 2015 begins. Experience has taught us that such sharing and learning does not happen automatically: it must be facilitated and supported, something the EAC is well positioned to do.
In this initial phase of the ‘Open Health Initiative’, the EAC Secretariat will work with all EAC Partner States to develop a robust ‘Open Health Initiative’ Strategy, supported by concrete and costed implementation plans across all three thematic areas. A particular focus will be placed on developing a regional e-health strategy in order to accelerate advances made by several countries already such as Rwanda and Kenya. In consultation with all EAC Partner States, the EAC Secretariat will also design a platform and mechanisms that will enable all EAC Partner States to more actively and constructively share best practices and lessons learnt in order to accelerate the achievement of MDGs 4 & 5.