Youth in Lilongwe and Kasungu have hailed the youth friendliness of youth-targeted outreach clinics, stating they are a safer space to access integrated SRHR/HIV information and services, particularly for youth living in hard-to-reach areas. Their jubilant news comes after Youth Friendly Health Services 2014 – 2015 strategy review that indicated youth are still facing barriers in accessing contraception, HIV testing, and cervical cancer screening and treatment services at static and routine mobile clinics.

“I managed to access injectable contraception in 2019 from an FPAM youth mobile clinic that served youth at Malikha primary school ground. I remember we accessed counseling, condoms, and other contraceptive methods for free,” said Elfrida Mlongoti, 19, youth leader and secretary of Chimutu youth network in Lilongwe under Deayoung cluster.

Mlongoti accessing HTS and contraception services during a youth-targeted outreach clinic at Kamamina in Deayoung Cluster in Lilongwe

Youth leader Chikondi Chatchunda, 23, from Kaluluma youth club in Kaluluma cluster in Kasungu district says she does not only mobilize youth for a demanded youth-targeted outreach from the FPAM district manager, she also demands a mobile clinic for elder women and men, who live in very hard to reach areas.

“I usually combine contraception, gender-based violence, and child protection lessons to inform youth about the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, detection of rape, and reporting of rape perpetrators and community sensitization about the rights of a child,” she said. She added that “I have managed to refer more than 100 girls and boys to access counseling and family planning services to community health workers and health service providers. Currently, 12 girls are using long-acting and reversible contraception and 11 others use pills, injectables, and condoms.”

Mentored youth leader Emily Chapulausiku, 18, from Mnyanja Cluster in Kasungu, who is on injectable contraception, claims that apart from being a beneficiary, she supports organizing Youth Targeted Outreaches (YTO) because some girls in the Mnyanja area fear contraception due to myths and misconceptions and this is leading most of them to unwanted pregnancies because they opt for unprotected sex. “I have referred more than 50 girls to Community Health Workers (CHWs) to access contraception including my younger sister, we are to sit for Malawi Secondary Certificate of Education examinations soon (Final senior secondary education exams in Malaŵi).”  

Chapulausiku shared a testimony of the importance of contraception among girls during a quarterly cluster review meeting in Kasungu

Youth Community-Based Distribution Agents (YCBDAs) have also seen YTOs directly uplifting their work to a greater height. Elinart Anuel, 22, YCBDA from Mseche Health Centre in Lilongwe under Daeyoung Cluster says the youth-targeted outreaches cover any commodity stock out they incur. “Youth no longer pay a nearby hawker or shop to access a condom. Such places have no privacy and many young people would not afford to buy condoms all the time. All SRHR/HIV services at the youth-focused mobile clinic are for free,” she said.  The YCBD added that “the van announcements that alert people of the oncoming mobile clinic next day, informs communities of the importance of promoting youth access to contraception and this eases our community reach work.”

Mackion Levenia, 32, CBDA who reports to Chiwamba Health Centre in Lilongwe under Daeyoung cluster claims that YTO which features door-to-door information sessions help to dispel myths and misconceptions related to contraception. “Many parents are beginning to understand the importance of youth preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” he added.

Mlongoti shared that her motivation to maximize youth access SRHR/HIV information and services emanate from the fatal regret that pushed her to conduct unsafe abortion because she just couldn’t carry a baby at 16. She explains that she vowed never to engage in unprotected sex anymore and that this should be a classroom for other girls who may not be lucky enough to survive unsafe abortions. Chapulausiku says she is a living example of using injectable and condoms contraception and no one should be threatening girls about contraception. And Chatchunda who uses injectable contraception says she is motivated to help more youth access contraception because she does not want any girl in her area to get pregnant at 16 but rather at 21 because it is very unbearable for an underage girl to drop out of school and pass through psychological torture to the bullying community and injuries during giving birth.

“Youth targeted outreach clinics are very good for young people because they create a free and friendly environment for them to ask questions, screen for STIs including HIV, access condoms, and get the full SRHR/HIV counseling. Youth no longer sneak into the clinic and this enables them to mobilize their peers for the mobile clinic services,” said the FPAM Lilongwe North Community Reproductive Health Promoter (CRHP), Jaziel Kalikokha.

Currently, FPAM has committed to providing four youth-targeted outreach clinics in Lilongwe and Kasungu to support routine 64 outreach clinics that predominantly target women and men.