Maricianah Onono

2016 Winner

Position: Medical doctor/Research Scientist
Organization: Kenya Medical Research Institute

Maricianah Atieno Onono is a medical doctor at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and is also the KEMRI-RCTP Nyanza Research Coordinator. She earned her medical degree from the University of Nairobi and her MSC in clinical research from the University of Liverpool. She has overseen large multi-site studies focusing on family planning, HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. She has played a key role in translating many research findings into routine clinical practice. She chaired the scientific committee for the first Integration for Impact conference in 2012 in Kenya, which focused on reproductive health and HIV services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She has conducted Family Planning and HIV related studies and has been involved in ministry of health policy and guidelines formulations and development on family planning and HIV integration.

Peter Manwari, Community Prevention Technical Adivisor at PATH

Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

Main contribution has been in reducing unmet need for FP among persons living with HIV using research
Adapted the existing FP guidelines and designed a 4 prong approach towards integration of FP and HIV services: 102 (94%) of FACES-supported ART health facilities providing integrated FP-HIV services. FP uptake in HIV+ women increased from 42% in 2012 to 60% in 2014
Member: Kenya national RH-HIV integration TWG  -Developed the national minimum package of RH-HIV integration-2012. 
Current lead on the national RH-HIV toolkit for service providers
Convener of the 1st integration for impact conference held in Nairobi Kenya, 2012 ; chaired the scientific committee. Over 300 delegates from 15 countries attended

What sparked your passion for family planning?

I love women and babies! As a general practitioner, I cried for every woman died in childbirth, every dead baby I held in my arms.  FP can prevent up to one-third of all maternal deaths by allowing women to delay motherhood, space births, avoid unintended pregnancies, and unsafely performed abortions, and stop childbearing when they have reached their desired family size. Closely spaced births result in higher infant mortality. To me, FP is the magical silver bullet for saving women and babies.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

Trying to decrease the unmet need for FP among adolescents against rigid national guidelines and retrogressive societal norms that equate contraception to young girls as an open door to encouraging promiscuity. The Kenya 2003 Adolescent and Reproductive Health and Development Policy was barely implemented by 2015. To overcome this challenge, our program we are beginning to collect metrics on adolescents, using combination social economic approaches and addressing male norms and masculinities.

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

Lack of government investments in FP programmes and service provision for adolescents has left this population with a increased cases of teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions and STIs. 2014 KDHS, about 1 in every 5 adolescent girls aged 15-19 years is already a mother or is pregnant with her first child. This can only be addressed by providing comprehensive age-appropriate info and services on sexual health and FP, social protection approaches and by having metrics by which to assess change.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I want to decrease unmet need for FP and STI services for adolescents, reducing the numbers of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions  by Increasing consistent use and availability of condoms, FP and PREP to adolescents through
Interventions that build social assets to improve girls’ abilities to protect themselves by reducing their social isolation and providing them with social safety nets through mentors, peer groups, civic engagement, and access to health information and services.