Kenya is a 'teenage' country with 40pc of population aged under 15

Igiza Africa theater group perform a play about dangers of rape during campaign to end early teenage pregnancies and stigma at Kakamega Golf hotel on May 10, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kenya’s population is dominated by young people with 40 per cent of the country’s population being below 15 years of age. The indicator, according to researchers, calls for more deliberate planning to have more government resources channelled into supporting the youth.

According to the findings of the just-released Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2023, 34 per cent of the households are headed by women, up from 32 per cent in the previous report.

The report released in Nairobi yesterday also indicated 76 per cent registered births, with Nyeri recording the highest registration of births at 96 per cent while Wajir recorded the lowest at 30 per cent. 

The report revealed that the number of teenagers aged between 15 to 19 years having babies has declined nationally. Nyeri again records the lowest number at five per cent.

Teenage pregnancies

Samburu recorded the highest number of teenage pregnancies at 50 per cent, which Dr Mohammed Sheikh, the Director General of the National Council for Population and Development, noted as a concern since teenagers are physically, emotionally, and financially unprepared to bear the burden of parenthood.

The survey, which polled Kenyans around the country, found that only 24 per cent of Kenyans are covered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), underlining low access to healthcare quality. Only four per cent of Kenyans are covered by private commercial insurance companies, and one per cent are covered by community-based insurance.

The KDHS findings will help to guide the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of population and health-related programmes at the national and county levels. 

The school attendance ratio at the primary school level is 85 per cent among primary school-age-going children. An underwhelming 49 per cent of children within secondary school age recorded attending school. 

Sixty-eight per cent of Kenyans have access to essential clean drinking water. Kitui recorded the lowest percentage of the population with access to basic clean drinking water, while the general central Kenya region has safer drinking water.

Only 41 per cent of Kenyans have access to basic sanitation services, with 10 per cent using open defecation methods. Fifty-one per cent of Kenyans still wash their hands in adherence to the MoH guidelines.

The report, for the first time, also captured literacy levels among Kenyans, revealing that 91 per cent of Kenyan women and 94 per cent of men are able to read basic sentences.

Tobacco use among women was at one per cent and 3.8 per cent among men. Alcohol usage among men was at 26 per cent and five per cent among women.

The use of tobacco and alcohol increases the likelihood of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with the report classifying the habits as high-risk. The study also says fertility rates have decreased significantly, from about seven children per woman post-independence to three currently.

The use of modern family planning methods exceeded the targeted 54 per cent to reach 67 per cent in less than a decade. Kenya has reduced the number of children dying before their fifth birthday.

On a sad note, 21 babies out of 1000 live births end up dying within 21 days of delivery, revealing only a marginal decline over the years, a matter that Dr Sheikh terms as concerning, urging stakeholders to focus on the area.

“Neonatal mortality is a proxy indicator for the quality of maternal health services. (the statistics indicate) that babies are born alive, but they are dying in our health facilities,” he says. 

Nearly all Kenyan women (98 per cent) reported receiving antenatal care from a skilled provider for their most recent live birth or stillbirth.

At the same time, home deliveries have declined from as high as 52 per cent over ten years ago to 11 per cent as of now. Unequal access to health services and poor-quality care for pregnant women has been known to hamper progress in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of fewer than 70 maternal  and neonatal deaths per 100,000 live births globally by 2030.

One of cancer’s most effective management methods is early detection, but only 14 per cent recorded testing for breast cancer, and only 17 per cent recorded testing for cervical cancer. On vaccination, only six out of 10 children are fully vaccinated. Only 60 per cent of women breastfeed exclusively within the first six months of their child’s life, as maternal and child healthcare experts recommend. 

“Breastfeeding is the first immunisation the child gets, and it is cheap, affordable and available 24/7, so the numbers need to go up to promote better nutrition among children and child-mother bonding,” said the Director General for Public Health Dr Patrick Amoth.

The survey revealed that women aged between 15 and 49 years have had an average of 2.3 sexual partners in their lifetime, while men aged between 15 and 49 years have had an average of 7.4 sexual partners.