Columnists

Time running out for Kenya on contraceptives foreign support

contracept

Oral contraceptives. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

Summary

  • Over the last two decades, Kenya has made tremendous progress in improving access to modern contraceptives.
  • The UK, US, the UNFPA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been supplying Kenya with contraceptives at no cost.
  • The family planning programme has a Sh863 million allocation in the budget for the 2021/22 fiscal year, against the Ministry of Health’s projection of the funding requirement of Sh1.7 billion.

In July, news media in Kenya reported that the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) had distributed contaminated contraceptives to various parts of the country.

According to media reports, later confirmed by various public agencies, the contraceptives possibly became contaminated because of delays at the port of Mombasa awaiting clearance.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shipped the contraceptives in question into the country in October 2020 and failure by the Government of Kenya to allocate a budget for tax clearance, caused an eight-month delay in clearance from the port.

Eventually, the consignment was released, after the Treasury requested the Kenya Revenue Authority to waive the taxes owed.

Although the contaminated contraceptives were quickly recalled, the saga of the mouldy contraceptives is a symptom of a deeper problem, and if no decisive action is taken in the next 12 months, it could be a sign of things to come.

Furthermore, the entire saga was also paradoxical.

While the contraceptives were sitting at the port awaiting clearance, there were reported shortages of contraceptives and other family planning commodities in parts of the country.

In November and December 2020, Performance Monitoring for Action Kenya conducted a study in 11 counties, revealing that stock-outs were commonplace in public and private health facilities. Intrauterine devices, implants and injectable contraceptives were among the contraceptives affected by stock-outs to some extent.

Over the last two decades, Kenya has made tremendous progress in improving access to modern contraceptives. The contraceptive prevalence rate among married women of reproductive age stood at 61 percent in 2020, up from 39 percent in 1998.

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate is the percentage of women of reproductive age who use — or whose partners use — a contraceptive method at a given point in time.

During these 20 years of progress in the percentage of women of reproductive age who use a contraceptive method at a given point in time, Kenya has largely depended on external sources to finance contraceptives.

The UK, US, the UNFPA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been supplying Kenya with contraceptives at no cost.

However, Kenya's status as a lower middle-income country means that we are no longer eligible for such support.

Development partners have pledged to match Government of Kenya funding for Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child and Adolescent Health funding on a sliding scale till Kenya takes over domestic financing by 2023.

The family planning programme has a Sh863 million allocation in the budget for the 2021/22 fiscal year, against the Ministry of Health’s projection of the funding requirement of Sh1.7 billion.

It is, therefore, crucial that the transition is managed well to prevent disruption of family planning services due to lack of commodities.