I had a great privilege of working at the UNFPA Kenya Office this summer. The UNFPA, also known as the United National Population Fund, was established in 1969 with an aim of ‘delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled’. Since its foundation, the UNFPA has been making a significant contribution to achieving the universal access to reproductive health, reducing the maternal mortality, and improving the lives of underserved and vulnerable populations, and empowering women and young people to fulfill their potentials. Despite its remarkable achievements and unremitting efforts, many corners of the world, especially in developing countries, are still in dire need of urgent humanitarian interventions and development assistance to improve reproductive health, to promote gender equality, and to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
Though Kenya has been experiencing a gradual socio-economic-political development and stability recently, the country faces high inequality and extreme poverty in every segment of the society. With a Gini Coefficient of 0.446, Kenya is the 10th most unequal country globally and the 5th most unequal of Africa’s 54 states. At the same time, with over 80% of the territory classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Land, Kenya is vulnerable to natural hazards such as recurrent droughts and devastating floods, which causes not only a decrease in agricultural productivity and subsequent economic losses, but also threatens human lives through food insecurity, chronic malnutrition and hunger, and water- / vector-borne disease outbreaks. Recent outbreaks of cholera, high maternal and neonatal mortality rates, and the prevalence of HIV epidemic, place the country in a chronic disaster situation. In addition, politically instigated ethnic conflicts in the run up to and after the general elections combined with various forms of violence and insecurity related to competition over commonly shared natural resources create additional risk and vulnerability factors in the country. Frequent and violent terrorist attacks in recent years and a huge influx of refugees from neighboring countries affect peace and security and exacerbate humanitarian situations in Kenya.
In this country context, the UNFPA Kenya Office has been providing reproductive health and protection services to the vulnerable population, especially those women and girls affected by disasters, crises, and health emergencies. During my internship I was assigned to develop a comprehensive Humanitarian Preparedness & Response Plan and to support Monitoring & Evaluation of the UNFPA Kenya Office’s country programs.
While working on my assignments, I was stunned by the various facts and figures; national civil registration coverage of births is only 58%, percentage of women aged 15 to 49 who have experienced physical or sexual violence is 45%, female genital mutilation prevalence rate is 27%, 1.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 60 percent of child deaths occur in the first month of life, etc. I was completely lost by the scale of this rampant and chronic humanitarian crisis. Though those figures gave me a sufficient rationale for humanitarian interventions, it was a big challenge to develop a comprehensive plan for efficient and effective interventions. I had to review numerous relevant laws, policies, and governance issues including the Kenya Vision 2030 and the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Kenya. From there, I narrowed down the scope of interventions considering UNFPA’s mandates and expertise, especially the Kenya Office’s Country Program. Then, after further assessment and analysis of the UNFPA’s organizational capacity and humanitarian needs, I could complete the draft of the preparedness and response plan. Throughout the process, I enjoyed formal and informal consultation meetings and dialogues not only with the internal staff members of UNFPA, but also external partners such as UNOCHA, UNISDR, UNEP, ICRC, etc. It gave me a great opportunity to learn their diverse perspectives coming from their long professional experience and accumulated knowledge.
The mission trip to Mombasa and Kilifi Country for the Joint GOK/UNFPA Field Monitoring Visit (July 12 – 16) was one of the highlights of my internship. The monitoring team was comprised of the government personnel from the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, and program officers from UNFPA. During the preparation period and monitoring visit, I could apply the theory, which I learned from the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) course last semester, to practice and observe the actual process of M&E. I particularly focused on the design of theory of change, its assumptions behind the logical flows from activities to outputs and outcomes, the actual implementation of intended activities and consequent achievements. From interviews and meetings with local governments and implementing partners, I found there exist quite a number of implementation gaps and challenges derived from the government’s decentralization process and lack of capacities and therefore recommended possible policy options to fill the gaps and to overcome the challenges. Above all, the monitoring visit provided me a good opportunity to assess the local vulnerabilities, witness the dedicated work of local governments and implementing partners, and learn UNFPA’s humanitarian and development intervention work.
Overall, the internship at UNFPA Kenya Country Office was very fruitful and rewarding. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, Representative of the UNFPA Kenya Country Office for his excellent guidance and support. I also thank all the staff members for their assistance and cooperation.