NAIROBI, November 13 – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Regional Director Dr Bunmi Makinwa has criticised Kenya for concentrating on economic development at the expense of social development.
Dr Makinwa told Capital News that Kenya was one of the countries that had focused on developing its economy and giving minimal attention to the needs of the poor people.
“We need to make sure economic development goes along with social development to ensure that people do not die from ill health,” he said citing the example of developed countries where even poor people have access to health care and housing.
Dr Makinwa said despite showing commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, International Conference on Population and Development and the Maputo Declaration Kenya, like many other African countries, was still lagging behind in terms of improving lives of the majority poor population.
He said it was crucial for African countries to formulate programmes and policies that cater for the poor and ensure they can easily access the most basic needs. He also expressed concerns that maternal health was on the rise in the Continent.
“In Africa many mothers are dying while giving birth even more than before. When you look at Kenya for example, over 400 women out of 10,000 die due to child birth-related complications; why should a woman die when giving another life?” he queried.
Dr Makinwa who is overseeing UNFPA programmes in 45 African countries said with Kenya’s population expected to rise to 40 million people by 2010, there was urgent need for change to accommodate the growing population especially by creating jobs.
He also mentioned urbanisation as another area that countries needed to focus on to improve infrastructure.
During the launch of the State of World Population Report on Wednesday, Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya said the increase in population came as a result of failure to provide and use family planning methods.
He projected that Kenya’s population would rise from 35 million to 38 million by end of next year, and announced that the government was formulating policies to contain the rise.
However, according to the UNFPA boss a lot still remained to be done to improve people’s lives especially in regard to upholding human rights.
He advised the government to address gender inequalities and gender-based violence as well as fighting practices like female genital mutilation through culture-friendly practices would bring to an end the suffering of women.
Dr Makinwa stressed on the importance of creating awareness on good cultural practices and reproductive health to promote human rights.
In Kenya female genital mutilation remains a common practice among the Somali community with 97 percent of young girls undergoing the cut. The cut is prevalent with 96 percent of Kisii and Kuria while 93 percent of Maasai women go through the rite.