Kenya tops the East African region in the use of contraceptives among married women, new data by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows, a pointer to increased attempt to reduce family size amid piling pressure from high cost of living.
About 55 per cent of married women use a modern contraceptive method, being higher than that of Rwanda at 49 per cent, Uganda (about 31 per cent) and Tanzania ( 33 per cent.
The report dubbed The power of choice: Reproductive rights and the demographic transition, ranks Kenya third on the continent after Zimbabwe and Malawi. The UNFPA statistics sampled 33 sub- Saharan African countries.
People in Kenya prefer to have fewer children and take better care of the ones they have, according to Dan Okoro, a sexual and reproductive health specialist in the UNFPA office in Nairobi.
“More and more couples are choosing to use family planning to prevent, delay or space pregnancies,” says Mr Okoro.
Rachel Muthui, a volunteer at Family Health Option Kenya, a UNFPA-supported youth health centre, supports this view.
“Taboos surrounding family planning are generally a thing of the past. Young women now feel empowered and are able to make their own decisions,” she says.
The findings support the 2018 research by Performance Monitoring and Accountability (PMA 2020) which showed that a higher percentage of married women in Kenya now use contraceptives.
In terms of usage per region, PMA research ranked Central Kenya as top with an estimated 73 per cent of women using birth control devices and drugs (collectively known as contraceptives).
The region was followed by Eastern at 70 per cent and Nairobi with 63 per cent. The use of contraceptives, the report showed, was lowest among women in North Eastern at three per cent, Coast at 44 per cent and Rift Valley at 53 per cent.
In terms of individual counties, Kirinyaga tops countrywide at 81 per cent against a national average of 58 per cent. Others with high rates of contraceptive use are Makueni (80 per cent), Meru (78 per cent), Machakos (76 per cent), Tharaka Nithi (74 per cent) and Kiambu (74 per cent).
This is despite fertility rate of women dwelling in urban set up averaging 2.8 children compared with 4.5 for those in rural areas.
The UNFPA report further shows that women’s average desired number of children is below four only in Kenya (3.9), Malawi (3.9) and Rwanda (3.6) even though men typically preferred more children.
The study links this on education and ability to generate wealth as key factors determining family size.
“Those who have at least a secondary education want—and have—fewer children than those with a primary education or less. Similarly, people with greater wealth prefer fewer children than those who are poorer,” says the study.
Another survey by PMA had shown that implants were most popular method after injectables, especially among poor and uneducated women in Kenya who are taking advantage of free facilities in public health centres.
Rural residents contributed the highest proportion of birth control with the research indicating that 72.3 per cent use implants compared to the urbanites who only contribute to 27.7 per cent. The high use of implants among women in rural setup may explain why UNFPA study shows that they are neck-and-neck with those in urban areas.
According to UNFPA study, younger generation generally prefers fewer children than their parents did, meaning that countries with a higher population of young people like Kenya may see a reduction in children per family.
It further says that countries with high fertility typically face challenges in providing education for children, health care for all and employment opportunities for young workers.