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Supplies of contraceptives was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic © AFP / Mohd RASFAN

Kenya

Kenya’s contraceptives uptake drops during COVID-19 era

Nairobi, Kenya, Sept 26 – Contraceptive use among women of reproductive age dropped significantly in 2020/2021 financial year, owing to the advent of COVID-19 disease.

According to the Kenya Demographics Health Survey, Kenya attained a contraceptive uptake of 61 % while fertility dropped by 0.5 to 3.4 births per woman between 2014 and 2020.

Women in the Northern Region reported high births of up to 5 children per woman while Kirinyaga reported low number of births in women of reproductive age between 15-49 years.

The variations are also notable in the uptake of family planning services where Kirinyaga, Meru, Kiambu, Machakos, Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Nyeri Counties leading in modern Contraceptive uptake among married/in union women compared to Kilifi, Wajir and Mandera Counties in 2020.

In the past decade, Kenya made tremendous advancements in increasing access to modern methods of contraception.

Data shows that the percentage of married women using modern methods of family planning has increased from 36% in 2007 to 61% currently, preventing rapid population growth and drive development.

In addition, more than half of women using contraceptives at 54 percent use injectable as a preferred contraceptive method with emergency contraception and female condoms being the least used at 13 % and 1% respectively.

Speaking during the 2021 World Contraception Day celebrations in Nairobi, the Ministry of Health’s, Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman noted that with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, accessing and making good decisions around contraception has become more challenging.

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Statistics from the Kenya Health Information System (KHIS)  show that for the financial year 2019/2020, family planning visits dropped to about 5 million visits from about 5.4 million visits the previous year.

While contraceptive services have remained largely accessible to people in the high-income bracket, marginalized groups and persons living with disability have not been so lucky.

A significant number of Kenyans lost their sources of livelihood due to Covid 19 and this has seen them prioritize the provision of basic needs for their families as opposed to reproductive health care.

Additionally, an even larger number of Kenyans in rural and remote areas were unable to make hospital visits either due to distance or to minimize the risk of contracting Covid 19.

“These inequalities pose a risk of reversing the progress Kenya has made in enabling access to modern contraception,” he said.

To enable access of family planning (FP) services by increasing public funding and reducing reliance on donors, the government and its development partners agreed on a formula that would have modern contraceptive services fully financed domestically by 2024.

“I am glad to report that for the financial year 2021/2022 the health budget has increased from 111.7 billion to 121.1 billion Shillings. These funds will largely go towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which also covers family planning services,” Aman explained. “Additionally, we are striving to ensure that post-partum family planning services get included as part of our Free Maternity policy under the Linda Mama program.

In the financial year 2020/2021, the government disbursed USD 5.1 million to Family Planning commodities against the allocated USD 7.9 million.

Director General for the National Council for Population and Development Mohamed Sheikh meanwhile underscored the need to bridge the financing gap through a formidable transition plan. These efforts, he said, will see to the Sustainability of Family Planning Services in Kenya.

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Furthermore, the government committed itself to working hand in hand with all stakeholders in health and the allied Sectors to ensure improved access to Family Planning services being a component of reproductive health as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.

Kenya is the fourth country with over 60% use of modern contraceptives in sub-Saharan Africa after Zimbabwe and Eswatini (66%) and Lesotho (65%).

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