Health in Kenya

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Tropical diseases, especially malaria and tuberculosis, have long been a public health problem in Kenya. In recent years, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), also has become a severe problem. Estimates of the incidence of infection differ widely.

The life expectancy in Kenya in 2016 was 69.0 for females and 64.7 for males. This has been an increment from the year 1990 when the life expectancy was 62.6 and 59.0 respectively.[1]The leading cause of mortality in kenya in the year 2016 included diarrhoea diseases 18.5%, HIV/AIDs 15.56%, lower respiratory infections 8.62%, tuberculosis 3.69%, ischemic heart disease 3.99%, road injuries 1.47%, interpersonal violence 1.36%. The leading causes of DALYs in Kenya in 2016 included HIV/AIDs 14.65%, diarrhoea diseases 12.45%, lower back and neck pain 2.05%, skin and subcutaneous diseases 2.47%, depression 1.33%, interpersonal violence 1.32%, road injuries 1.3%. The burden of disease in Kenya has mainly been from communicable diseases but it is now shifting to also include the noncommunicable diseases and injuries. As of 2016, the 3 leading causes of death globally were ischemic heart disease 17.33%, stroke 10.11% and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 5.36%.[2]

Health status[edit]


The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) claimed in 2006 that more than 16 percent of adults in Kenya are HIV-infected.[3] The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) cites the much lower figure of 6.7 percent.[3]

Despite politically charged disputes over the numbers, however, the Kenyan government recently declared HIV/AIDS a national disaster. In 2004 the Kenyan Ministry of Health announced that HIV/AIDS had surpassed malaria and tuberculosis as the leading disease killer in the country. Due largely to AIDS, life expectancy in Kenya has dropped by about a decade. Since 1984 more than 1.5 million Kenyans have died because of HIV/AIDS.[3]

In 2017, the number of people in Kenya living with HIV/AIDs was 1 500 000 and the prevalence rate was 4.8% of the total population. The prevalence rate of women aged 15 to 49 years was 6.2% which was higher than that of men 3.5% in the same age group. The incidence rate was 1.21 per 1000 population among all ages and more than 75% of the total population are on antiretroviral therapy. Globally 36.9 million people were living with HIV by the year 2017, 21.7 million of the people living with HIV were on antiretroviral therapy and the newly infected people for the same year was 1.8 million.[4]

AIDS has contributed significantly to Kenya's dismal ranking in the latest UNDP Human Development Report, whose Human Development Index (HDI) score is an amalgam of gross domestic product per head, figures for life expectancy, adult literacy, and school enrolment. The 2006 report ranked Kenya 152nd out of 177 countries on the HDI and pointed out that Kenya is one of the world's worst performers in infant mortality. Estimates of the infant mortality rate range from 57 to 74 deaths/1,000 live births. The maternal mortality ratio is also among the highest in the world, due in part to female genital mutilation. The practice has been fully prohibited nationwide since 2011.[5]

Traffic collisions[edit]

Apart from major disease killers, Kenya has a serious problem with death in traffic collisions. Kenya used to have the highest rate of road crashes in the world, with 510 fatal crashes per 100,000 vehicles (2004 estimate), as compared to second-ranked South Africa, with 260 fatalities, and the United Kingdom, with 20. In February 2004, in an attempt to improve Kenya's record, the government obliged the owners of the country's 25,000 matatus (minibuses), the backbone of public transportation, to install new safety equipment on their vehicles. Government spending on road projects is also planned.[3] Barack Obama Sr., the father of the former U.S. president, was in several serious drunk driving accidents which paralysed him. He was later killed in a drink driving accident[citation needed].

Child mortality[edit]

The child mortality per 1000 live birth has reduced form 98.1 in 1990 to 51 in 2015, this compares to the global statistics of child mortality which has dropped from 93 in 1990 to 41 in 2016. . The infant mortality rate has also reduced form 65.8 in 1990 to 35.5 in 2015 while the neonatal mortality rate per 1000 live births is 22.2 in 2015.[6]

1990 2000 2010 2015
Child mortality 98.1 101 62.2 51.0
Infant mortality 65.8 66.5 42.4 35.5
Neonatal mortality 27.4 29.1 25.9 22.2

Maternal and child health care[edit]

Maternal mortality is defined as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes".[7] Over 500,000 women globally die every year due to maternal causes, and half of all global maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.[8][9]

The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Kenya is 530, yet has been shown to be as high as 1000 in the North Eastern Province, for example.[10] This is compared with 413.4 in 2008 and 452.3 in 1990. In Kenya the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is unavailable and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women 1 in 38.[11] However, generally, the rate of maternal deaths in Kenya has significantly reduced. This can be largely attributed to the success of the Beyond Zero campaign, a charitable organization whose mission is to see total elimination of maternal deaths in Kenya.[citation needed]

Women under 24 years of age are especially vulnerable because the risk of developing complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The burden of maternal mortality extends far beyond the physical and mental health implications. In 1997, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) loss attributable to MMR per 100,000 live births was $234 US, one of the highest losses compared to other African regions. Additionally, with the annual number of maternal deaths being 6222, the total annual economic loss due to maternal mortality in Kenya was $2240 US, again one of the highest losses compared to other African regions.[12]

Kenya's health infrastructure suffers from urban-rural and regional imbalances, lack of investment, and a personnel shortage, with, for example, one doctor for 10,150 people (as of 2000).[3]

Determinants of maternal mortality and morbidity[edit]

The determinants influencing maternal mortality and morbidity can be categorised under three domains: proximate, intermediate, and contextual.[13][14]

Proximate determinants: these refer to those factors that are mostly closely linked to maternal mortality. More specifically, these include pregnancy itself and the development of pregnancy and birth-related or postpartum complications, as well as their management. Based on verbal autopsy reports from women in Nairobi slums, it was noted that most maternal deaths are directly attributed to complications such as haemorrhage, sepsis, eclampsia, or unsafe abortions. Conversely, indirect causes of mortality were noted to be malaria, anaemia, or TB/HIV/AIDS, among others.[15]

Intermediate determinants: these include those determinants related to the access to quality care services, particularly barriers to care such as: health system barriers (e.g. health infrastructure), financial barriers, and information barriers. For example, interview data of women aged 12–54 from the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System (NUHDSS), found that the high cost of formal delivery services in hospitals, as well as the cost transportation to these facilities presented formidable barriers to accessing obstetric care.[16] Other intermediate determinants include reproductive health behaviour, such as receiving antenatal care––a strong predictor of later use of formal, skilled care––, and women’s health and nutritional status.

Contextual determinants: these refer primarily to the influence of political commitment––policy formulation, for example––, infrastructure, and women’s socioeconomic status, including education, income, and autonomy. With regards to political will, a highly contested issue is the legalisation of abortion. The current restrictions on abortions has led to many women receiving the procedure illegally and often via untrained staff. These operations have been estimated to contribute to over 30% of maternal mortalities in Kenya.[17]

Infrastructure refers not only to the unavailability of services in some areas, but also the inaccessibility issues that many women face. In reference to maternal education, women with greater education are more likely to have and receive knowledge about the benefits of skilled care and preventative action—antenatal care use, for example. In addition, these women are also more likely to have access to financial resources and health insurance, as well as being in a better position to discuss the use of household income. This increased decision-making power is matched with a more egalitarian relationship with their husband and an increased sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Income is another strong predictor influencing skilled care use, in particular, the ability to pay for delivery at modern facilities.[18]

Women living in households unable to pay for the costs of transportation, medications, and provider fees were significantly less likely to pursue delivery services at skilled facilities. The impact of income level also influences other sociocultural determinants. For instance, low-income communities are more likely to hold traditional views about birthing, opting away from skilled care use. Similarly, they are also more likely to give women less autonomy in making household and healthcare-related decisions. Thus, these women are not only unable to receive money for care from husbands––who often place greater emphasis on the purchase of food and other items––but are also much less able to demand formal care.[18]

Maternal health in the North-Eastern Province[edit]

The North-Eastern Province of Kenya extends over 126, 903 km2 and contains the main districts of Garissa, Ijara, Wajir, and Mandera.[19] This area contains over 21 primary hospitals, 114 dispensaries serving as primary referrals sites, 8 nursing homes with maternity services, 9 health centres, and out of the 45 medical clinics spanning this area, 11 of these clinics specifically have nursing and midwifery services available for mothers[20] However, health disparities exist within these regions, especially among the rural districts of the North-Eastern province. Approximately 80% of the population of the North-Eastern Province of Kenya consists of Somali nomadic pastoralist communities who frequently resettle around these regions. These communities are the most impoverished and marginalised in the region.[21]

Despite the availability of these resources, these services are severely underused in this population. For example, despite the high MMR, many of the women are hesitant to seek delivery assistance under the care of trained birth attendants at these facilities. Instead, many of these women opt to deliver at home, which accounts for the greatest mortality rates in these regions. For example, the Ministry of Health projected that about 500 mothers would use the Garissa Provincial General Hospital by 2012 since it opened in 2007; however, only 60 deliveries occurred at this hospital. Reasons for low attendance include a lack of awareness of these facility's presence, ignorance, and inaccessibility of these services in terms of distance and costs. However, to address some of the accessibility barriers to obtaining care, there are concerted efforts within the community already such as mobile health clinics and waived user fees.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018). IHME. Measuring what matters. University of Washington. Read from on 8-09.2018
  2. ^ Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (2016). IHME. Measuring what matters. University of Washington. Read from on 8-09.2018
  3. ^ a b c d e Kenya country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (June 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ UNAIDS (n.d). Epidemic transmission metrics. Read from on 08-09-2018
  6. ^ on 08-09-2018
  7. ^ WHO 2012 []
  8. ^ CIDA 2011
  9. ^ Kirigia et al. (2011) Effects of maternal mortality on gross domestic product (GDP) in the WHO African region
  10. ^ Red Cross 2011
  11. ^ "The State of the World's Midwifery". United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved August 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ Ochako et al. (2011). Utilization of maternal health services among young women in Kenya: Insights from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 2003.
  13. ^ Epuu (2010). Determinants of maternal morbidity and morality Turkana district-Kenya.
  14. ^ Charlotte & Liambila, 2004, Safe motherhood demonstration project western province [1] Archived 13 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Ziraba et al. (2009). Maternal mortality in the informal settlements of Nairobi city: what do we know?
  16. ^ Essendi et al., 2010. Barriers to formal emergency obstetric care services utilization
  17. ^ Amissah et al., 2004. Abortion law reform in Sub-Saharan Africa: no turning back
  18. ^ a b Gabrysch & Campbell, 2009, Still too far to walk: Literature review of the determinants of delivery service use
  19. ^ "KNBS, 2011". Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  20. ^ MMS, 2012
  21. ^ USAID, 2010, Kenya-Somalia border conflict analysis
  22. ^ Boniface, 2012, Kenya's North Eastern Province battles high maternal mortality rate

External links[edit]