, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 30 – The government is now being asked to re-invest in the country’s reproductive health systems and expand family planning programmes to alleviate poverty levels in the country and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development (NCAPD) Chief Executive Officer Boniface K‘Oyugi said on Tuesday that the government should increase its family planning budget to Sh5.3 billion per year.
Dr K’Oyugi explained that for every extra shilling spent by government in family planning, a four-shilling saving would be realised in the long run which would further address the current unmet need for adequate family planning measures.
“If we increase our budgetary allocations for reproductive health women will have fewer children and the government will spend less money to meet the needs of the population. By the year 2015 we will have saved over Sh20 billion with cost savings outweighing the additional costs of family planning by a factor of almost 4:1,” he said.
He also said that approximately 18 million Kenyans currently lived in poverty indicating a 2.5 million increase in the number of people living on less than a dollar a day over the last 10 years.
“One out of every two families is still living in poverty. The total number of people in poverty has increased; in 1999 the population of Kenya was 28.7 million. 54 percent of the population or about 15 million people were living in poverty,” he said.
He however added that the country’s purchasing power had increased threefold over the last 30 years which ironically led to a reduction in poverty margins.
“In 1975 Kenya had a gross national income of about $350 per person; this is about Sh26,000. In 2005 there was a substantial increase of about $1230 which is about Sh92,000. It means that we have 3.5 times the purchasing power per person than it was three decade ago,” he said.
Dr K’Oyugi further added that Kenya needed to shift focus from over reliance on donor funds to financing its own reproductive health systems. He said the country’s population growth rate needed to be efficiently controlled and managed before it spun out of control.
“The growing population means that more people are in need of services which means building more schools and health facilities. These investments will put a strain on the government’s budget and may cloud out other investments. This could mean slower economic growth for the country,” he explained.
He also warned that if the country failed to adequately take up family planning then it jeopardised the national agenda, “How will we achieve our Vision 2030 if population continues to grow so rapidly? We need to regulate population growth so that economic growth can catch up. As it is the population is chocking the economy.”
The NCAPD boss also noted that the country still faced a challenge of ensuring easy access to contraceptives especially at the grassroots levels. He added that there was need for Parliamentarians to marshal their constituents and educate them on the importance of controlling their family sizes.