In Kenya, Family Planning is an Economic Safeguard

December 30,2014

With Kenya's population expected to double by the year 2050, the government and non-governmental organizations are investing heavily in family planning. Providing contraception and education to women is not just about population control, it's also about protecting the country's economic interests.

There are more than 40 million people in Kenya, and the population keeps rising.

The average family has five children. While that number is down from two decades ago, the exploding population is outpacing the provision of resources and services, which are already stretched thin.

Anne Okwisa is a mother of four living in Nairobi's Kibera settlement, one of the poorest areas of the country.

She is discussing her birth-control options with a clinician, because she does not think she can afford to have any more.

“I feel that the cost of living has gone up and the number of children that I have are the ones I am able to take care of," she said. "If I give birth to more children, I don’t have that kind of job which I can say will make me meet the needs of more children and that’s why I decided to use family planning, so that I can take care of my children.”

Seeing the economic advantage of family planning, the government and NGOs help clinics like these, so patients can access contraception cheaply.

Walter Adoli says his clinic gets a lot of support.

“For example, the government provides the supplies, the family planing methods and we also have NGOs that volunteer to do family planning, for example surgical methods of family planning like tubal ligation and vasectomy,” he said.

Kenya's Health Ministry has said increasing access to family planning resources is key to meeting the country's development goals in the coming decades.

Alex Bosire, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has worked in Nairobi the last eight years, says the strong emphasis on family planning is good for individual patients and the health of the country at large.

“You do not want the population of your country to just explode because you will not be able to provide them with jobs, unemployment would be a big thing. Provisions of social amenities and social services would be affected if the population is not controlled, so to speak, by use of family planning,” he said.

Bosire says he has also noticed that women patients are increasingly breaking free of past societal taboos about contraception, and are more willing to ask about their options.

“With education that's been rolled out by the government, and some of the NGOs out there, there has been more acceptance to this, and the fact that now there are more and more ladies coming out and saying 'hey, I need contraception,'” he said.

But despite progress in Kenya, government statistics show nearly 50 percent of pregnancies in the country are reported to be unplanned, and there is still a long way to go to ensure population growth does not outpace the economy.