Children born in Homa Bay County are four times likely to die before age five as compared to those in Nyeri, a new report shows.
The report further shows that death rates continue to remain high in Coast, North Eastern, Eastern, Western and Nyanza regions, with one in every 19 children not reaching their fifth birthday.
According to research by Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the Western part of the country remains harsh for the survival of newborns.
The research titled Sub-national Variation and Inequalities in Under-Five Mortality (U5M) in Kenya since 1965 shows that children in Western Kenya die in their formative years because the regions is characterised by high HIV prevalence and intense malaria transmission.
Food insecurity and malnutrition due to harsh arid conditions is blamed for the deaths of children in regions like Turkana.
The 22 counties where more children are less likely to live beyond their fifth year are Homa Bay, Siaya, Migori, Kisumu, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Kilifi, Tana River, Kwale, Kisii, Nandi, Turkana, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Taita Taveta and Lamu.
The research was authored by Peter Macharia, Pamela Thuranira and Emelda Okiro, Population Health Unit, Kemri-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya.
Mr Macharia said the high under-five mortality in Northern part of the country, especially Turkana County, could be explained by harsh arid conditions leading to food insecurity and malnutrition.
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Nationally, Ms Okiro said, the mean mortality rates in 1965 ranged from over 200 per 1,000 live births in 11 counties to between 50 and 75 per 1,000 live births in four counties.
“Overall, using 1965 as a baseline, by 2013, 23 counties had less than or equal to 60 per cent decline in U5M rates, while a further 14 counties reduced U5M rates by at least a half,” Okiro said.
She said all the counties, except Nyeri and Nairobi, had an overall reduction greater than a third.
“By 2013, high mortality counties relative to the national average, continued to persist around Lake Victoria and Tana River,” Okiro said.
She said while the country did not achieve any of the goals set to reduce mortality rates in children below five years, there were some counties that achieved some of the goals.
“Those that have an under-five mortality rate of less than 70 per 1,000 live births included Mandera, Marsabit, Meru, Embu, Machakos, Makueni, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Kiambu, West Pokot, Samburu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Laikipia, Nakuru, Narok, Kajiado, Kericho and Bomet,” Okiro said.
“Conversely, inequalities started to decline in the early 1990s and linked to huge reductions in the differences between counties with low and high U5M rates and were sustained through to 2013. However, differences recorded in 2013 are still unacceptable and focus on reducing U5M in these high burden areas will narrow the gap,” Thuranira said.