Kenya averts 2 million pregnancies in race against overpopulation

Contraception is for both partners
Contraception is for both partners

Kenya has averted two million unintended pregnancies since 2012 in a move by the government to control the ballooning population.

Dr Josephine Kibaru-Mbae, director general of the National Council for Population and Development, said this was achieved by putting 1.7 million more women on modern contraceptives.

"This means we also averted the complications that go with unplanned pregnancies, like unsafe abortions and maternal mortality," Kibaru said.

In total, 5.6 million Kenyan women of reproductive health age (15-49 years) are currently on modern family planning methods.

Kenya’s current population of 50 million people is projected to reach 95 million in 2050 and 142 million in 2100, according to projections released by the United Nations last year.

Nairobi –currently with four million residents – is projected will have 14 million people in 2050 and 46 million in 2100, according to the Toronto-based Global Cities Institute.

Kibaru said Kenya requires at least Sh2.3 billion to buy family planning products every year. Currently, the government provides Sh1.9 billion while donors bridge the difference.

"For sustainability, Kenya is moving family planning services to the National Hospital Insurance Fund,” she said at the ongoing International Family Planning Conference in Kigali, Rwanda.

She challenged county governments to allocate funds to family planning to reduce the burden on central government.

The efforts will ensure the population growth does not outpace economic development.

Kenya is racing against time to reap a demographic dividend, where people live longer and have smaller families.

This frees up investments that would be used to take care of many children, for other economic activities.

Kibaru said Kenya is on track because 58 per cent of women now use modern birth control methods and the fertility rate is reducing.

"We’ve steadily increased family planning uptake and in 2016 we surpassed our target and we sat together and worked on a new goal," she said yesterday.

Kenya has 3.9 births per woman, according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014.

Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN resident coordinator, said the country must create one million jobs every year to enjoy demographic dividend, or it will end up with many jobless youths who will not drive any growth.

One million Kenyan youths join the workforce every year, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

"Steps should be taken to strengthen youth employment strategy in line with the education system in Kenya, to better deliver relevant skills and competencies by the job market," Chatterjee said.

Evelyn Samba, Kenya country director at DSW, a global reproductive health group, said the most significant threat to access to family planning is inadequate funds.

"Traditionally, family planning programmes have depended on donor funding, yet donor funds have been dwindling over the years," she said.

"County governments also bear the responsibility of investing in the necessary enablers to provide family planning services."