By Ruth Owino

A new survey indicates Kenya is one of the countries with the highest proportion of unplanned pregnancies. The report, “The State of Kenya Population” launched as part of marking the day the world hit the seven billion population mark, shows 1.8 million married women have unplanned births every year. Worse still, 1.1 million married women currently have unmet need for contraception. While a further 7,500 women die every year because of pregnancy related conditions. Slightly over seven out of every ten women have risky births. The Government is accused of not taking reproductive health of millions of women seriously as the country’s population hit 41 million.

“It is time for Kenyan women to have universal access to reproductive health services, says Director-General of the Kenya Coordinating Agency for Population and Development (NCAPD) Boniface K’Oyugi. He said in total, 26 per cent of women who have attained reproductive age in Kenya would like to use family planning but are unable. This percentage is higher among the poor and uneducated women. The Director- General called on the Parliamentarians to enact the relevant legislation to implement the health rights clauses of the Constitution that promote civic education on reproductive health to increase awareness. He also urged the Government to reinvigorate the family planning programme and promote awareness about reproductive health among all age groups, especially the youth.

However, the government through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning Prof Edward Sambili described the one million increases in Kenya’s population every year as unsustainable, saying it needs to be brought down to below 500,000 per year. The population growth rate has adverse effects on the economy, quality of services being provided and ultimately on the quality of life of most Kenyans. However, the Permanent Secretary said there were plans to boost use of family planning methods from the current 46 per cent to 56 per cent in the next four years. While Article 43 of the Constitution recognizes the right of every person to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health, and offers opportunities for increasing contraceptive use beyond 70 per cent target by 2015. It obligates the Government to take legislative, policy, and other measures to realize the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Population experts note the trends in population growth and the high rate of urbanization compared to the economic growth rate, will in the future have negative impacts on natural resource base, environmental degradation and food security. The experts indicate that the biggest constraint to extending contraceptive prevalence is over dependence on donor funding.

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