Government initiates interventions to tackle population explosion

Friday, July 23rd, 2021 17:39 |
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country director, Dr. Ademola Olajide (l) and Treasury Chief Administrative Secretary, Simiyu Wafukho display copies of the Kenya State of Population 2021 report handed to them by Natiinal Council for Population and Development (NCPD) director general, Dr. Mohamed Sheikh (l). PHOTO/GEORGE KEBASO

The government has initiated a number of interventions to address an expected population explosion in the country following increased teenage pregnancies in recent reports.

Some of those strategies are in policy; projects, laws and plans, meant to respond to fears the country could be staring at a possible increase of unplanned babies.

In the 2019 national count, Kenya’s current population stands at 52.57 million. This is likely to shoot up with the recent teenage pregnancies. In Narok county alone, an estimated 54, 000 girls did not report back to school early this year due to pregnancies.

The State of Kenya Population 2021, a report produced by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), showed that 90, 873 adolescents were found to be pregnant between January and March 2021. Out of this number, it was found that 7, 754 children below the age of 15, were pregnant.

This is baffling and calls for urgent concerted efforts to address the situation which points to a near population explosion in the country, NCPD director-general, Dr Mohamed Sheikh told People Daily during the World Population Day celebrations.

“Besides the other interventions that have been put in place to respond to the causes and effects of teenage pregnancy, the wider goal is to have a comprehensive budget, generated locally, towards family planning,” he said, underlining a government commitment to have a fully funded domestic kitty to manage the country’s population.

Sheikh said the government’s target is to generate through domestic sources Sh2.1 billion by 2023 with priority specific goals to manage population explosion, which recently has been aided by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For a long time, he noted, Kenya has heavily relied on donor funding to address her family planning programmes which include procurement of commodities such as modern contraceptives and various outreach plans in hard-to-reach areas.

“But now we are developing new commitments to ensure that by 2023 we have full domestic financing for Family Planning. And we have done well in terms of access to FP, having many of our women on modern contraception.

“At the NCPD for instance, we are lobbying government agencies, educating and advising the National Treasury and Ministry of Health, to prioritise FP on the basis that by itself, it’s a development issue, and that's why we have to advocate for its budgeting,” he added.

This, he stated, is to ensure that FP is given the right attention.

“Already, the Ministry has given it quite substantial money for the last financial year, and were it not for Covid-19, the funds to FP programmes could have been more. But we will continue with this spirit of advocating, and making sure that Treasury continues to increase allocations,” Sheikh explained.

In the state of population report, NCPD with partners, have established a multi-sectoral coordination response and technical working groups on ending teenage pregnancy in various counties.

“We have also established parents and teachers networks in various counties. To work closely with the NCPD, UNFPA and civil society organizations among others, we will spearhead strategies on ending teenage pregnancies. This will also enhance access to integrated Sexual reproductive Health information by adolescents and young people through use of digital channels and youth empowerment platforms to reach all adolescents,” the report says.

However, financial resources are needed more for the government to achieve these strategies, which Sheikh said the situation is now improving.

In this Financial Year, he said the government has budgeted between Sh800 million to Sh1 billion. He said partners such as the UNFPA, World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are also filling in the gaps as Kenya works towards weaning itself from donors.

“In terms of the money, we have Sh2 billion available for FP. This is local national budgetary allocations and from partners. But the overall goal, and what we are looking forward to; and what we are sure of, is that by 2023, FP should be fully funded domestically,” he added.

Sheikh traced the country’s problem of managing her population, and the reason explosion of pregnancies in the country to devolution of the health sector, together with FP, which should not have been the case.

“After devolution, the funding for FP was devolved and the budgeting was going to the counties, but whereas FP was supposed to be run nationally, no budgeting was done at the county level, yet the procurement was happening at the national office,” he noted.

This, Sheikh said, resulted in a myriad of challenges including a breakdown in funding for FP commitments from 2013 except for the incessant knocking on the doors of partners to fund procurement of commodities.

However, this, he said started to change from 2014, 2015, through 2016, as the government gradually increased the national funding for FP.

“That's why last year and this year we had Sh500 million to Sh800 million allocated to the FP by MoH through Treasury,” he said thanks to a steering committee both at the international and national level that is vigorously advocates for FP under the umbrella of FP2030. The FP2030 will reengineer targets set for 2020 which saw more women and girls access modern contraceptives.

Some of the modern contraceptives include; oral contraceptive pills, implants, injectables, contraceptive patches and vaginal rings, intrauterine devices (IDUs), female and male condoms among others.

“In the process, Kenya has made great progress toward increased uptake of family planning. An FP2020 commitment maker in 2012, it has recently exceeded its 2020 target of 58 per cent modern contraceptive use by married women,” Sheikh said.

But, rather than adjust this target, the government, he said decided to focus its efforts to expand equitable access to quality care at the county level, where ideal family size ranges from nine children in the northeast to three children in the Nairobi region.

Notably, the number of counties that have family planning budget allocations has increased; however, they remain a small share of the health budget.

 Health Chief Administrative Secretary, Dr Rashid Aman said that the government has a programme to see how the country can be weaned off; and fund her own interventions for HIV, TB, and malaria, which still plague it.

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