Plans to control Kenya’s escalating population are actively being considered and some experts are suggesting that a two- child policy is the only viable long term solution. According to the plan, Kenya’s birth rate will drop to an average of 2.6 children per woman compared to the current 4.6 as part of the government’s move to halve the prevailing fertility rates.
Parliament passed ‘Sessional Paper No 3 of 2012 on Population for National Development’ early this month, which among other things aims to control the growth of the country’s population which at present rates of growth is expected to nearly double from the current 42 million to about 80 million people by 2030.
Experts believe that the two-child policy will help in alleviating the housing, utility, health and education constraints on the economy as well as push the country closer to achieving ‘Vision 2030’ targets.
FAMILY PLANNING IN KENYA
The soaring population in Kenya has been blamed on failed methods of contraception. Kenya has a contraception prevalence rate of 46 per cent however the population keeps growing at an alarming rate of one million people per year.
According to the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, almost all Kenyan women know at least one method of family planning, however not all women in Kenya have access to contraceptives, especially those in poor households. Cultural and religious differences have also proved a challenge in the use of contraceptives.
THE ONE CHILD POLICY IN CHINA
The one child policy in China established by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to limit the country’s population growth was the first of its kind in the world and some other countries including, for example Uzbekstan, followed suit in an effort to control their own population.
In China the rule limited parents to one child, although some exceptions were allowed. It has been estimated to have reduced population growth in the country of 1.3 billion by as much as 300 million people over its first twenty years.
Breaching the one-child policy carries a severe financial penalty. Its alleged that parents in Shanghai pay between three and six times the city’s average yearly income in what are called “social-maintenance fees” (SMF) for extra children and its estimated that the government has collected over 2 trillion Yuan ($314 billion) in SMFs since 1980.
CAN THE SAME POLICY WORK IN KENYA?
In Kenya families who are well off are more likely to know of, and have access to, family planning methods and often give birth to only the number of children that they can more comfortably cater for.
The case is the exact opposite when it comes to many Kenyans from poorer backgrounds, who keep giving birth to as many children as they can even when it is evident that they cannot even provide the most basic needs to the children.
Some cultures, especially in northern parts of Kenya do not advocate family planning and see a woman’s primary role as giving birth and raising children. Convincing such communities to adopt family planning methods has not yielded any fruits so far and it is doubtful that limiting the number of children they can have will be taken lightly.
The rule is also likely to face religious obstacles as Kenya is a secular nation with people who profess various religions which include Christianity and Islam.
If the two-child policy is implemented we can also be sure that cases of abortion, which is illegal in Kenya, will be on the rise.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will launch its State of the World Population Report in a few weeks time, and it is expected that the economic benefits of family planning at individual, household, community and country level will be the highlights of the study.
Speaking to the Daily Nation on October 31,2012, Dr Boniface K’Oyugi, General Director of the National Council for Population and Development, warned that if nothing is done to control the exploding population in Kenya, the economy will remain dependent on foreign investors.
“ If we do not consider these issues, then we should expect to live in a country with over 70 million people who are highly dependent on foreign investment, which is a very jittery affair judging from the current global outlook”, said Dr K’Oyugi.
The government plans to have 70 per cent of Kenya women using contraceptives by 2015 but to achieve this target contraception will have to be made cheaper and more available to all women and much campaigning will be required to sensitize women on the issue.