NAIROBI, KENYA: Today, September 26th 2016, Kenya joins the family of nations in marking the World Contraceptive Day. This is important since Kenya was one of the first Sub Saharan African Countries to adopt progressive family planning policies in 1963. Experts have attributed Kenya’s current development status in almost all the sectors to the remarkable increase in use of modern methods of family planning (FP) from a low of 18 per cent in 1989 to 53 per cent in 2014.
Generally, family planning enables women and their families to avoid unintended pregnancies, delay childbearing, space births, and achieve desired family size. By preventing unintended pregnancies, family planning also reduces the number of abortions in any population.
Family planning also helps to strengthen marriages by engaging both parents in childbearing decisions and increasing opportunities for women. At the national level, family planning plays a significant role in poverty reduction, health improvement and wellbeing and general economic advancement. Without family planning, Kenya faces the severe consequences of unplanned pregnancies, including high-risk births, maternal mortality and rapid population growth.
Two weeks back, the Kenya Government through the Devolution Cabinet Secretary presented to the public a finalized National Road Map to guide implementation of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All the 17 goals have a relationship to sustainable management of populations - and therefore family planning, and contraceptives. Based on previous performance and the rapidly changing political context, several factors are important to address in order to unlock potential provided by FP as a lever for national development:
Devolution of the health sector including procurement of medicines and related supplies has emerged with severe logistical problems resulting in county-level stock-outs, which in turn impacts negatively on availability and access to FP services. Most County Governments can no longer ensure that right quantities of the right contraceptive methods are available to users with acceptable quality at right or affordable costs. System inefficiency often results in low method mix at service delivery points, which is directly correlated with low contraceptive acceptance and utilization by the client.
Poor forecasting and procurement plans. Good projections and clear procurement plans assure availability of high-quality contraceptives; averting impending contraceptive shortages and stock outs; reducing duplication of efforts; and decreasing inefficiencies. Forecasting is at the heart of the procurement plan, as it seeks to predict variance in demand and/or certain campaigns that require adjustments in forecasting. Accurate forecasting improves financial management, as well as program and service delivery efficiency and effectiveness.
Resource allocation to contraceptives. Some counties in Kenya today have no specific budget line dedicated to family planning commodities including contraceptives. The absence of a line item in the health budget that is specifically dedicated to the procurement of contraceptives means no program can expect to meaningfully improve the reproductive health and family needs of the people it serves.
Political commitment. Politicians in several parts of Kenya have continued to advice their constituents against the use of contraceptives and other modern family planning services in general. Low political commitment results in this form of misinformation, but most significantly, in low resource allocation to family planning programs.
As we mark the World Contraceptive Day, the National and County governments must show commitment towards contraceptives and the role it can play in realizing the SDGs. Policy makers must show and increase support and leadership for family planning, allocate sufficient resources to ensure adequate procurement of a whole range of family planning methods and provide family planning services that are of high quality and sensitive to diverse needs of the various categories of people.