NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 23 – As the world marks the 3rd World Contraceptive Day on Saturday, inadequate use of contraceptives associated with high rates of abortions and birth rates remained a major concern among reproductive health experts in Kenya.
Departmental Head of Family Health in the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation Dr Josephine Kibaru said on Wednesday that there were 300,000 abortions every year in public health centres alone.
“Our study shows that the number of abortions in this country is so high, this was done only in public facilities which mean that this is just a tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The high rates of abortion in public institutions only posed more questions than answers since abortion in Kenya was still illegal.
According to Population Services International (PSI), “an estimated 14 percent of all pregnant mothers in Kenya end up aborting and nearly one in five maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortion.”
PSI further revealed that the number of illicit abortions were so high that no estimates were made. Dr Kibaru attributed the high abortion rates to inadequate or total lack of use of Family Planning (FP) methods.
Head of Division of Reproductive Health- Public Health Ministry Dr Bartilol Kigen said despite the government having enough FP methods for the next one year, women were not utilising the services as expected.
Though the number of people using contraceptives had increased from 39 percent to 46 percent, he said there were challenges of creating awareness and convincing women to use contraceptives for birth control and avoid unwanted pregnancies.
National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development Senior Programme Documentalist David Kinyua said due to low use of family planning, 1.5 million children were born in Kenya every year.
“As much as there is no limitation on the number of children one should have, it is important for people to give birth to children they can care for. Though people are having about four to five children, we are not saying there is a limitation but we would have expected them to have about two to three,” he noted.
This year’s World Contraceptive Day will focus on encouraging young people to talk about sex and contraception with an aim of giving them options to prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Public Health Director Dr Shanaaz Shariff appealed to sexually active youth to start using FP methods.
However he noted there was need to have youth-friendly centres in all constituencies to encourage more youth to visit them to get information on their reproductive health.
He further said young people in schools should be given a choice through sex education. Kenya will mark the World Contraceptive Day with a launch of activities on Saturday at Makadara Youth Centre.