Japhet's story: improving adolescents' access to health services in the DRC

Japhet's story: improving adolescents' access to health services in the DRC

8/11/17

The eldest of nine children, Japhet is a vibrant, 23-year-old university student studying electronics and mechanics at Institut Supérieur de Techniques Appliqués in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Japhet likes to work with his hands and dreams of establishing a training center where young people in Goma can learn a trade along with basic life skills that will enable them to fulfill their own dreams. Additionally, Japhet believes that unemployment and lack of access to good information and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services are two of the biggest challenges faced by young people in a part of the country that has been touched by more than two decades of conflict.

In a survey conducted by CARE and the National Adolescent Health Program in Goma, 34% of people aged 15-19 years and 81% of people aged 20-24 years said they were sexually active. Nearly one-third of girls and young women who were ever pregnant reported having an abortion. Unplanned pregnancies often have devastating consequences for young people, especially unmarried girls. Once the pregnancy becomes visible, they face the threat of social marginalization, expulsion from school, and even being kicked out of their own home. Adding insult to injury, the father of the child usually bears few, if any, consequences for his role in the pregnancy, often denying any involvement altogether.

Japhet wants to make sure that the dreams of these girls are not jeopardized by unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. So, for the past year, he has volunteered with CARE as a peer leader for the Vijanaa Juu initiative, designed to improve young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. This initiative is implemented in partnership with several Protestant churches in Goma that also operate schools and primary health centers that serve the larger community, and funded with the support of the British public and UK Aid Match (where donations from CARE supporters were doubled by the UK Department for International Development).

As a peer leader, Japhet engages adolescents and young people in a variety of interactive activities designed to equip them with the information and skills they need to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as well as how to treat their sexual partners with respect. These activities take place in a youth-friendly space located next to a church-managed primary health center. Japhet and his peers designed this space, the first of its kind in North Kivu, to be safe for youth to meet and get quality SRH services from a friendly health provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Japhet also seeks out young people in the neighborhood to talk about SRH and refer them to the youth-friendly space for more information and services. Japhet’s conversations are engaging as they describe difficult situations in which young people might find themselves – say, being pregnant while still in school – and then explore ideas about what would happen in such a circumstance and what could have been done to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Japhet enjoys helping adolescents get the information and services they need to protect their health and their futures. He is deeply motivated by the belief that if he helps one person, that person will help another, who will help another, and so on, making the world a better place in the process.

CARE USA is reducing unintended pregnancies and deaths from unsafe abortion by supporting high-quality service delivery in 48 primary health facilities that serve more than one million people in four health zones in North Kivu province in eastern DRC. Between June 2011 and December 2016, CARE reached more than 57,000 new family planning users with a wide-range of contraceptive methods. Adolescents comprise 17% of all new family planning users, choosing long-acting and reversible methods three out of four times.

CARE is committed to reducing poverty and social injustice by empowering women and girls and enabling them to exercise their right to decide whether, when, and how many children to have.

Click here to learn more about CARE Action’s Advocacy around Family Planning. 

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