Kenya’s health gap between the rich and the poor wide

World Vision Grants Acquisition Director Nick Wasunna (centre), National Health Coordinator Margaret Njenga (left) and Campaign Coordinator Brezhnev Otieno during the launch of the health report in Nairobi.  [PHOTO: MOSES OMUSULA/STANDARD]


Kenya is among countries with a huge gap between the health of the rich and the poor, ranking at position 121 out of 176 countries.

According to a global report released by World Vision, Kenya fares  poorly in the health inequality gap, leading to deaths of thousands of children under five years every year due to preventable causes.

In The Killer Gap: A Global Index of Health Inequality for Children, Kenya falls below five countries in the eastern Africa region and is only ahead of Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. 

World Vision Grants Acquisition Director Nick Wasunna said that the indicators of the ‘killer gap’ are life expectancy, personal cost of using health services, adolescent fertility rate and coverage of health services.

Health policy

“There is need to end these child deaths in our country. There must be a child health policy to help reduce the child mortality rate, especially in Nyanza, Western, Coast and North-eastern regions,” said Wasunna.

While releasing the report on Monday, Wasunna urged the government to prioritise child and maternal health on the post-2015 development agenda to end preventable child and maternal deaths.

In the region, Djibouti is at position 88, Rwanda 93, Burundi 115, Eritrea 117 and Ethiopia 117. Sudan is ranked at position 126, Tanzania 127 and Uganda 134.

South Africa, at position 68, is the country with the smallest gap between the health of the rich and the poor in Africa, followed by Botswana at 69.

Health poor are people who face the most barriers to accessing health education, awareness, prevention and treatment.

These barriers can be due to geography, direct or indirect costs of service, language, refugee status or discrimination related to a number of other factors, while the health rich are people with the most access to the best health education, awareness, prevention and treatment. 

The total score is an aggregate of four indicators that the countries were measured against. The indicators are inequality adjusted Human Development Index, out-of-pocket health expenditure, adolescent fertility and health personnel.

Due to the existence of the health gaps, the report notes that thousands of children under five years die due to preventable causes.

In Kenya, 189,000 children under the age of five years die annually from preventable diseases (malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, malnutrition and childbirth-related diseases). In other words, about 518 children under the age of five die every day in Kenya, from preventable causes.

World Vision Kenya Health Coordinator Dr Margaret Njenga said studies had shown that there has been no progress in dealing with the mortality rate of children under five years while insufficient progress has been made in dealing with the maternal mortality ratio for the past 10 years plus.

“The under-five mortality in Kenya stands at 74 deaths per 1,000 live births, with Nyanza leading with 149 deaths per 1,000 live births followed by Western at 121, Coast 87, North Eastern 80, Nairobi 64, Rift Valley 59 and Central 51, for the 10-year period before the survey, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics,” said Njenga.

“Complications and infections that happen at birth due to inadequate care are the biggest single cause of child deaths. New-borns have the highest risk of death among all children,” said Njenga.

The medic painted a grim picture that the leading causes in child mortality were diarrhoea at 20 per cent, pneumonia at 16 per cent and malaria at 11 per cent.

Skilled attendants

She pointed out that the country needs skilled attendants to support women during childbirth to help bring down the high number of mothers who die in childbirth globally every year.

The report therefore recommends that governments prioritise meeting the needs of all their people, including the most poor and vulnerable, by developing strong nationwide health systems that are accessible.

The report assesses 176 countries worldwide according to the size of the gap between those who can access good health and those who can’t.