Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kenya praised for vital reproductive health policy

Participants at the launch of Population Policy for National Development by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) on October 30, 2012. Photo/EMMA NZIOKA

Participants at the launch of Population Policy for National Development by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) on October 30, 2012. Photo/EMMA NZIOKA  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NJERI RUGENE [email protected] in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kenya has received recognition at a major international conference on women and rights for what is described as a progressive reproductive health policy.

This came as members of an international organisation explained why Kenya was a top recipient of an award that recognises countries that have made progress in ensuring that their citizens access reproductive health services.

The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health named Kenya alongside Zambia and Gambia as the top African countries working to break down barriers to provide vital reproductive services to the people.

The organisation was established by the Washington-based Aspen Institute and members include some sitting and former Presidents.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the Women Deliver 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, board members cited "surmounted barriers" such as opposition from leaders in different sectors of society and religious and cultural roadblocks to develop a population policy.

The Kenya National Council for Population and Development spearheaded efforts to ensure access to reproductive health services and tame the runaway population growth.

The Population Policy for National Development passed by Parliament last December was launched after comprehensive consultations with interest groups among them religious, local leaders and politicians.

The council had to engage and involve different interest groups in consultations over the new policy on population because of the sensitivities surrounding reproductive health and issues.

"In its role as the main government body responsible for developing population policies, NCPD has had to deal with sensitivities and controversies relating to population and health issues.

"What we have seen with the development of Kenya's 2012 population policy is that when people are engaged and informed about these issues, there is an enormous amount of agreement and support for reproductive health," said Dr Eliya Zulu on behalf of the council.

The organisers praised the country for creating a budget line for family planning in 2005 even after the program had between 1998 and 2003 after shifting of funding attention from reproductive health services to HIV and Aids.

Currently, it is estimated that the government funds more than half of the budget for family planning services as opposed to most African countries which rely on donor funding for the same, Dr Zulu said.

"These efforts produced a comprehensive policy that is far-sighted and which recognizes the impact of rapid population growth on Kenya's development goals and proposes a multi-sectoral approach to address these concerns, with a focus on family planning," said Dr Zulu.

The Resolve Award was presented last week in Geneva, Switzerland at a world health organisation. It was received on the country's behalf by Nominated TNA Senator Beth Mugo, the former Public Health minister.

On Tuesday, Kenya was praised for providing "valuable lessons" to sustain political will and an enabling environment to achieve universal access to reproductive health.

At the conference, it was recalled that the NCPD "had learned the hard way" after a draft developed in 1996-the National Population Policy for Sustainable Development was rejected by Parliament in 1996 for reportedly having failed to engage MPs in its development.

"In fact, there were enormous misunderstandings about what the policy sought to accomplish.

"Some thought the policy would tell Kenyan families how many children they could have, others thought the policy promoted abortion. None of this was true. said Dr Zulu, who is also the executive director of African Institute for Development Policy.

Aspen described Kenya's population policy as one that would have "long lasting benefits for women, families and the countries overall development prospects.

"The new policy recognises that family planning and reproductive health are central to development and affirms that reproductive health is a human right."

The policy, launched early last year by then Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya, seeks to guide the reduction of Kenya's population, which if not tamed, is estimated to hit the 77 million mark by 2030.

The country's population has risen by over ten million people to 41 million in the last 14 years.

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