Low spending by the Health ministry is frustrating family planning efforts in Kenya.
Experts say spending has been low with the government leaving donors and NGOs to promote use of contraceptives.
Donors, for instance, account for 60 per cent of the total investment in family planning campaigns in Kenya.
Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW), an NGO, says the government has slacked in its role, rolling back gains made previously.
The agency says the tussle between the national and county governments has also made it difficult to maintain consistent investment in family planning due to the ambiguity in roles, where the contributions of the two governments are not clearly defined.
For example, in the 2013/2014 budget, the national government allocated Sh900 million to family planning yet no investments were made in the year.
Consequently, in the following year’s budget, only Sh50 million was set aside for the role against the required Sh1.4 billion.
Dr Mwaura Waithaka, who specialises in occupational medicine, says in a report that “nearly one-third of maternal deaths could be prevented by meeting the unmet need for family planning.”
The latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) indicates that 18 per cent of women in Kenya have an unmet need for family planning.
“In Nairobi alone, the unmet need for family planning stands at 11 per cent,” reads the KDHS report.
Noting the disparity, development partners are now calling on the government to find a way of sustaining birth-control plans.
“Family planning is still not seen as an emergency in Kenya. We have seen a trend where investment in the sector has dwindled, especially after the onset of the devolved government,” said DSW advocacy manager Lucia Chebett Laboso.
Higher budget allocations will be used to buy more contraceptives and fund awareness campaigns such as vasectomy take-up, which is sneered upon with most men reluctant to undergo the procedure. Most rural clinics are also struggling to maintain a stable stock of contraceptives due to poor distribution and a lack of money.
“Since the devolution of health systems, the counties are overstretched to handle reproductive health issues.
“The supply of contraceptive is always jeopardised by the complex logistical supply chain systems, limiting accessibility to women,” said Dr Waithaka during a Kenya Medical Association conference in April.
Misconception about birth control is also a barrier to efforts in achieving reproductive health goals.
“When we talk about family planning most people get us wrong. This is not about population control, we want women to be in control of when they can have children.
“The government needs to provide family planning services to women with the same urgency as is the case with other health issues,” said Christine Ajulu, programme assistant, Health Rights Advocacy Forum.
Kenya is not the only country that is lagging behind in meeting family planning objectives.
Tanzania also faces the same challenge with President John Pombe Magufuli recently finding himself on the wrong side of the media after advocating for the zero-use of contraceptives, in a country where a woman gives birth to five or six children.
“You should now not worry about anything. Just have as many children as you can and I will educate them myself,” he said.
Later, Health, Community Development, Gender, Seniors and Children minister Ummy Mwalimu said Mr Magufuli made the statement in jest.
“The president was just joking. He did not mean to tell Tanzanians to give birth to children they cannot take care of,” he said.