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Better family planning key to achieving economic goals

By Vincent Ogaya | January 27th 2016

The ongoing International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Indonesia should rally us towards local actions that will ensure we work towards a sustainable population.

This is especially so in light of the new findings as contained in the recently released Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2014.

The research indicated Kenya is still halfway the replacement rate for a population, with every woman giving birth to an average of four children in her lifetime as compared to the acceptable two.

There has been a marked improvement since 1963, when Kenya attained independence with a total fertility rate of eight children per woman. The past two decades has seen stagnation of the fertility rate at five with a marginal drop to four in 2014.

Early/child and often forced marriages, low education levels for the girl child and unmet needs for family planning have contributed to unchecked population growth.

Women lack sufficient information and empowerment to make wise reproductive health choices. Furthermore, even where the mentioned factors do not come into play and they are ready to plan their families, they are hindered by lack of family planning information and services coupled with limited support from husbands and communities.

It is time as the ICFP rallies governments, policy makers, health experts and donors towards making more resources available for family planning and projecting it as a development agenda, we reflect on where we are as a nation and what we can do to achieve that elusive replacement level for our population.

Political support

Family planning initiatives must be factored in at all levels of Government with sound policies and international commitments at the national level being followed up with programmes that enable the provision of information and services within the counties.

In order to achieve more, robust and genuine political support must be guaranteed. Some politicians will always want communities to believe that giving birth to more children gives that ethnic group a larger vote basket and as such, more bargaining power for the national cake.

However, this might mean that more children with poor spacing means higher infant, child and maternal deaths. It also means if one cannot afford them a good quality life, they end up lacking in basic commodities and education.

Family planning therefore must be at the core of development processes for improved health especially that of the mother and the child; creation of wealth; bridging the gender gap as well for the protection of our environment.

The Government must not limit information and services on family planning to married couples. Such programmes must also be designed for those who direly need them.

Kenya should set sights on achieving universal reproductive health services for all in line with the Constitution and the sustainable development goals.

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