Kenya joins global birth control push By SAMUEL SIRINGI | Friday, July 13  2012 at  11:36

A pharmacist displays birth control pills. Low use of contraceptives in Africa results in high rates of unplanned pregnancies. FILE|AFRICA REVIEW 

Kenya is among countries that have signed up to a new $4.2 billion (Sh356 billion) drive to promote family planning services.

A summit in London on family planning pledged funds to ensure 120 million women and girls in poor countries access contraceptives by 2020.

Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya was among more than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector who attended the summit on Wednesday during the World Population Day.

Leaders of more than 20 developing countries made bold commitments to address the policy, financing and delivery barriers to women accessing contraceptive information, services and supplies.

The new move is likely to bolster Kenya’s own targets that seek to raise the contraceptive prevalence rate to 56 per cent among married women. Currently, 46 per cent of all married women use contraceptives.

The aim of the government is to control the current population growth rate of 2.9 per cent per annum. This translates to one million more births added to the population annually.

The country’s population, which stood at 15.3 million in 1979, shot up to 38.6 million by the time the 2009 census was conducted.

Kenya’s population was 8.6 million in 1962, a year before the country gained independence.

Population

The National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) projections indicate that the population will hit 64 million in 2030 if the growth rate remains constant.

Based on the current growth rates, the population now stands at about 41 million.

Mr Oparanya, accompanied to the London Summit by NCPD director-general Boniface K’Oyugi, made a presentation on Kenya’s position on demographic issues, including its decentralised programmes such as the Constituency Development Fund.

The British Government’s Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-hosted the summit, which underscored the importance of access to contraceptives as both a right and a transformational health and development priority.

“This is a breakthrough for the world’s poorest girls and women, which will transform lives, now and for generations to come,” UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said.

The new initiative is meant to result in 200,000 fewer women dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

It also aims at ensuring that there are more than 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies, over 50 million fewer abortions, and nearly three million fewer babies dying in their first year of life.

On Wednesday, Medical Services minister Anyang’ Nyong’o attributed Kenya’s rapid growth rate to the youthful population age structure.
More than half of the country’s population is youthful and is fast entering into the reproductive age bracket.

“This negates efforts aimed at increasing access to quality healthcare services including reproductive health,” Prof Nyong’o said during celebrations to mark the World Population Day in Embakasi, Nairobi.