SEGOR: Expanding family planning access to poor women vital for Kenya’s future
What you need to know:
- Going door to door, Beatrice has provided more than 400 women in her community with information about the benefits of family planning, and is also able to offer them a range of contraceptive options, which she gets from her local health clinic.
- Last October, we launched a 2012-2016 National Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan, which outlines priority strategies for increasing contraceptive prevalence.
By the time she was 30, Beatrice, a young mother living in Kibera, had already given birth to eight children – three of whom died shortly after birth. Despite not wanting more children, she continued to give birth every year because she was not using any contraceptives.
As a result, Beatrice struggled to provide her children with the basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and school fees. Her life changed when she met a social worker who taught her about family planning options that would allow her to determine when and whether to have more children.
She felt empowered and decided to train as a community health worker so she could use her own story to help educate other women.
Going door to door, Beatrice has provided more than 400 women in her community with information about the benefits of family planning, and is also able to offer them a range of contraceptive options, which she gets from her local health clinic.
Beatrice is not alone. In developing countries, more than 220 million women report a desire to prevent or delay childbirth but, for various reasons, are not using modern contraceptives.
In Kenya, one in four women don’t want to get pregnant but lack access to family planning services and information, and nearly half of the poorest women say their most recent pregnancy was unplanned.
Simply put, we know that providing women with better access to a range of contraceptive options is one of the best investments a country can make.
Family planning results in fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer babies dying in their first month of life, and fewer women and girls dying in childbirth.
Even beyond this, it leads to more young women staying in school, joining the workforce and providing a better future for their children and for our country.
In short, expanding access to family planning is both a basic human right and an economic imperative.
The good news is that progress is being made, and there is currently significant global momentum around family planning.
Last July, global leaders at the London Summit on Family Planning pledged to provide 120 million more women in the world’s poorest countries with voluntary access to contraceptives by 2020.
And dozens of donors and governments made the type of game-changing political and financial commitments needed to make this a reality.
For its part, Kenya committed to securing additional financing for family planning and to address critical barriers to progress at the policy level. Over the past year, we have made tremendous progress.
Last October, we launched a 2012-2016 National Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan, which outlines priority strategies for increasing contraceptive prevalence.
We have increased our national budget for family planning services; changed guidelines to allow community health workers to provide injectables; and increased access to family planning services.
However, we are not just concerned with expanding access; we are also aiming to expand the range of contraceptive options available to women so they can choose the methods they prefer. A number of innovative public-private partnerships have helped bring us one step closer to achieving this goal.
Bayer HealthCare was the first leading industry partner to make a significant commitment by reducing the price of its long-acting and reversible contraceptive implant, Jadelle®, by more than 50 per cent over the next six years. Merck Sharp & Dohme has also halved the price of its long-acting, reversible contraceptive implants, Implanon® and Implanon NXT®.
Together, these partnerships are helping to make contraceptive implants more accessible and affordable for women in developing countries, including Kenya.
Finally, Kenya is committed to tracking our progress toward FP2020 goals. In early 2014, the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) programme will be implemented here by the International Centre for Reproductive Health–Kenya, with support from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
PMA2020 will train female, community-based data collectors to conduct nationally-representative surveys via mobile technology every six months so we can routinely update our country’s family planning database.
Next week, global family planning leaders will convene at the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to celebrate progress, announce new commitments and call upon donors and governments to do more to expand access to family planning.
Prof Segor is the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Health