World over, human resource is critical to spurring accelerated socio-economic development. As such, its sustainable management is one of the greatest interventions towards the realisation of the Big Four agenda of the government; affordable universal health care, food security, affordable housing and a robust manufacturing sector.
These resonate perfectly with the globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially on elimination of poverty.
Food security and nutrition remain a major concern for the government. Past and current rapid population growth in Kenya has resulted in the recent developments and near-crises precipitated by increasing pressure on many ecosystems-Mau and Mount Kenya water towers, Lake Victoria basin, among others. This rapid growth has led to encroachment of ecologically fragile areas for settlement and related human activities. Subdivision of land into small uneconomic units has resulted inlow productivity and output. Areas surrounding Nairobi like Kiambu which were high agricultural zones producing a variety of agricultural produce, have been converted into human settlement to accommodate the rapidly growing Nairobi urban population.
It is important to strengthen population management, harmonizing growth with the available resources.
Universal health care
The pursuit of affordable universal health care must consider the country’s population growth rate which is around 1 million persons per year or 3,000 persons every day. The costs of rapid growth are cumulative; more births today make the task of slowing population growth later difficult as today’s children become tomorrow’s parents. It is arguable that as parents continue with high fertility, resources must be availed to meet the basic needs, thus limiting allocation to social sectors such as education, health and housing.
With such worrying data on growth, effective and timely implementation of policies and programmes that promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, access to information and high quality reproductive health services in all counties, especially the underserved populations will contribute towards attainment of high quality of life for Kenyans as envisioned in Kenya Vision 2030. Failure to invest in Reproductive health services on the other hand will result in inability to meet the ever growing demands for social services.
It is imperative to ensure that women do not spend their most productive years having and raising children, rather than entering the workforce and contributing to economic production. This is the pathway with greatest potential for ensuring healthy, educated and productive populations. This was the take-off strategy adopted by the ‘Asian Tigers’, where millions of people were lifted out of poverty by lowering dependency ratio, while allowing families to make savings. These savings translated into investments and boosted economic growth.
The writer is Director General of the National Council for Population and Development.