Kenya

One in every 19 children dies before fifth birthday: report

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In Summary

  • Mandera, Migori and Wajir had the lowest vaccination coverage. At the same time, counties with the highest vaccination were Nandi (94 per cent), Vihiga (91 per cent) and Tharaka-Nithi (91 per cent).

  • The underweight problem is slightly higher among boys (12 per cent) than girls (10 per cent), and for rural children (13 per cent) than urban children (seven per cent).

  • The survey found that about 61 per cent of children less than six months are exclusively breastfed, an increase from 32 per cent in the 2008-09 study.

Child survival in Kenya has improved significantly, with the deaths of children under five years declining to 52 for every 1,000 births last year, down from 74 in 2008-2009.

This means that one in every 19 children born in the past year died before their fifth birthday.

However, basic vaccination has also declined since 2008-2009, from 77 per cent to 71 per cent in 2014.

Mandera, Migori and Wajir had the lowest vaccination coverage. At the same time, counties with the highest vaccination were Nandi (94 per cent), Vihiga (91 per cent) and Tharaka-Nithi (91 per cent).

Notably, about two per cent of children from the 40,300 homesteads used for the survey had not received any vaccines since birth. Children who had received their first vaccination had also not been taken for subsequent ones.

This is attributed to the mothers’ education level. Children of mothers with at least some education are more likely to receive each of the recommended vaccinations. Mothers with secondary school level education are likely to ensure their children get full immunisation.

MALNUTRITION

The number of children fully vaccinated in northern Kenya stood at 42 per cent and 60 per cent in Nairobi while the coverage is close to 78 per cent for children in central and eastern regions.

The six-month survey also revealed that malnutrition places children at increased risk of illness and death, and also impaired mental development.

About 11 per cent of Kenyan children are underweight, with two per cent classified as severely underweight. This chronic malnutrition, which leads to stunted growth, however, has decreased by about nine per cent, says Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri.

“In 2014, about two to three in 10 children under five were stunted, this is a decrease from 35 per cent. In addition, underweights also decreased from 16 per cent in 2008/2009 to 11 per cent in this survey.”

The underweight problem is slightly higher among boys (12 per cent) than girls (10 per cent), and for rural children (13 per cent) than urban children (seven per cent).

At the county level, more than a quarter of children are underweight in Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot and Samburu. But there are only less than four per cent of underweight children in Nyeri and Nairobi. Among children under two years, exclusive breastfeeding has been lauded as reducing the risk of death.

EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFED

The survey found that about 61 per cent of children less than six months are exclusively breastfed, an increase from 32 per cent in the 2008-09 study. “Breast milk contains all the nutrients children need in the first six months of life, these figures confirm that,” said Dr Muraguri.

However, the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey found that about 15 per cent of children under six months are fed foods, water, other milk and non-milk liquids.

On maternal health, the survey reported an increase in the number of mothers seeking maternal care, from 88 to 96 per cent. It further notes that women in urban areas have more access to antenatal care.

Reported by Eunice Kilonzo, Pauline Kariuki, Mary Gachuha and Assumpta Lunalo