Prof Peter Gichangi when releasing the findings of the Performance Monitoring and Action Family Planning Survey 2021 at Sarova Panafric, Nairobi on March 25, 2021. Picture Kanyiri Wahito

 By Angela Oketch, Health and Science reporter, Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Contraceptive use in unmarried sexually active women rose from 62 per cent in 2020 to 64 per cent in 2021.
  • One in every four girls in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 is either pregnant or has given birth to their first child.

Kenyan adolescents are engaging in sex due to curiosity a new study has revealed. According to a research on family planning commissioned by Performance Monitoring for Action Kenya, out of 10 adolescents in the country, six of them were driven by curiosity to their first sexual encounter.

From the findings, 60 per cent of the respondents were curious, 39 per cent were carried away, 20 per cent said they were doing what was expected of them, 16 per cent were forced against their will and 15 per cent were under the influence of a substance.

The study on the uptake of family planning in 11 counties collected data from 6,000 respondents. It emerged that, out of 10 adolescents, four have had sex, while six are willing to have sex.

The report also revealed that about six in every 10 adolescents did not use a contraceptive during their last sexual encounter, and only 14 per cent of all adolescents (15-19 years) are using modern contraceptives. Of those who use contraceptives, four out of 10 get them from a pharmacy, 24 per cent from dispensaries, 21 per cent from health centres, and the rest from shops and private facilities.

Read: School offers a home and education to teen mums, their babies

“Family planning use among adolescents who are married is much lower (42.9) than that of other women (57.7),” said Prof Peter Gichangi, the principal investigator at Performance Monitoring for Action Kenya.

Prof Gichangi said the use of modern contraceptives in unmarried sexually active women rose from 62 per cent in 2020 to 64 per cent in 2021.

This is as the use of the modern methods in married women remained constant at 61 per cent. This means that more unmarried women were using contraceptives than their married counterparts.

The study interviewed women of reproductive age from 15 years to 49 years. The government warned that giving contraceptives to minors is illegal.

Dr Stephen Kaliti, the head of reproductive and maternal health at the Health ministry, said providing contraceptives to minors contravenes the Children’s Act.

Read: Policy stalemate – To offer contraceptives to adolescents or not?

Matters of adolescent sexuality, transition, and reproductive health have been a thorny issue, with some county reproductive health coordinators calling for teens to be given contraceptives to curb teenage pregnancies.

One in every four girls in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 is either pregnant or has given birth to their first child, according to the National Council for Population and Development report 2021.

Dr Kaliti challenged stakeholders to focus on discussing sex with minors.

“We cannot normalise an illegality because it is happening. Children are supposed to be in school and protected. Decisions on sexuality and reproduction require high levels of social competency,” he said.

Read: Laikipia records over 15,000 pregnancies in three years

Data also revealed that the use of long-acting methods had increased from 28 per cent in 2020 to 29 per cent in 2021, while that of short-acting methods had reduced from 33 per cent to 32 per cent.

Nyamira County is leading with the number of women on modern contraceptives at 69 per cent, followed by Nandi, Nairobi and Kericho at 68 per cent, Kiambu 67 per cent, Kitui 65 per cent, Kakamega 64 per cent, Bungoma 63 per cent, Siaya 60 per cent, Kilifi 49 per cent with West Pokot at 30 per cent.

The total demand for the methods increased to 79 per cent from 77 per cent. There has been a significant decrease in total unmet need since 2014 from 21 per cent to 14 per cent.

The country targets to increase contraceptive prevalence to 66 per cent by 2030 and 70 by 2050.