Health experts in Migori have expressed concern at the minimal usage of birth control pills among the youth in Kuria region.
A report on a study carried out in the area and unveiled to the public recently painted a grim picture of how teenagers are contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and having unwanted pregnancies due to failure to embrace the call for family planning practices.
The report presented at a health forum on health challenges facing the local youth blames men and particularly male politicians from Kuria for the low uptake of family planning in the region.
However, figures from the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey indicate that only 44 percent of women in the entire county are using modern family planning methods with one percent using traditional methods with a fertility rate of 5.3 against the national standard of 3.9.
“One out of five girls aged 15 to 19 years who are sexually active in Kuria region are using a method of contraception,” George Ayoma, a senior officer at Afya Halisi project said while unveiling the report during a health forum held at Kegonga hospital.
Ayoma faults male politicians from the Kuria community for failing to champion a strict absorption of reproductive health information and services by the youth despite the spirited campaigns laid out by the health experts in the region.
The political leaders have instead taken to glorifying the unfounded myth that women who use family planning become sexually active outside their marriage, fueling a rebellion against the use of family planning among couples in the community.
“The knowledge on family planning techniques is so low among the people in this community that even those who use contraceptives like condoms do not know how to use them properly leading to infections like HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” rued Ayoma.
Improper use of the contraceptives has also led to unwanted pregnancies and other birth complications among the users, the study adds in part.
However, the report calls for health experts to double efforts in imparting information about reproductive health regarding contraceptives use and their side effects for the sake of the safety of users and the general success of the intended outcome.
“Reproductive health issues and sex should be given first priority in education programs in schools and higher learning institutions as a way to sensitize the youth on their sexual life,” the study concludes in one part.
But the report regrets that Kuria men have since time immemorial wielded a bigger say over women in the use of the family planning, leading to the low rate of contraceptive use within the community.
Further, the campaigns for family planning acceptance have been highly politicized among the community that it has been viewed as denying politicians in the region votes to clinch elective positions within and outside the community.
Contraception is seen as a stumbling block to vote minting. Local politicians have always encouraged women in their respective clans to give birth to many off-springs to enable them get enough voters for themselves and at the same time increase the population size of the entire Kuria community to justify demands for their own county in the new constitutional dispensation.
However, Ayoma announced that within the community, they have since mentored about 100 family planning champions, mostly men and trained over 600 Community Health Volunteers towards convincing the local people to embrace the available family planning methods.
Through this effort, Afya Halisi, a Non-Governmental Organisation championing a reproductive program in the area, has been convening community meetings of about 15 people in informal settings to encourage women to accept family planning methods with a view improving their health and income.
Among the champions KNA talked to was Mwita Gisunti, aged 54 years old, who confided in us that he started accepting use of family planning early enough. The old-man who married at age 22 has only four children as a result of taking seriously the methods of birth control.
He says his age mates who rebelled against taking the route of family planning are now finding it rough in life after giving birth to many children, some siring eight children, others ten and above, thus piling huge financial and health problems on their families.
“Life can be difficult at times when you refuse to follow the advice of experts and wisdom learnt from others. To date, I have also helped in educating many youth about the positive impact of family planning ,” Gisunti said.
On his part, Caleb Mwita, 39, a construction worker and a husband to two wives, reported permitting his wives to take up family planning methods.
The father of three children says he has no problem his wives undergoing family planning therapies having seen no side effects in their lives.
“I have not seen them change to be adulterous since they started embracing family planning so there is nothing wrong with them planning their births,” he noted.
In the last census, Kuria region had a population of 305,385 out of 1,116,436 in Migori county population which has led to politician calling for women to give birth more.
According to a report from Ministry of Health titled ‘The Kenya Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan (FP-CIP), 2017-2020’ Migori County is set to lose Sh.154.5m due to poor family planning methods.
Joel Maranga, the Kuria East sub-county Public Health officer said Family Planning champions have helped to stop calls by politicians for more children.
“Currently we have more women and men seeking to have family planning services following the concerted campaigns we conduct within community which have helped reverse the unfounded beliefs about birth control,” Maranga said.
By George Agimba