Kenya’s estimated birth rate is falling gradually while the population is getting slightly older, a NationNewsplex analysis of demographic data has revealed.
In the six years to 2016, all the 47 counties recorded a decline in their estimated birth rates even as Kajiado County maintained its top ranking the whole time.
With 59 estimated births for every 1,000 people, Kajiado’s birth rate is almost triple that of the county with the lowest rate, Kirinyaga, which has 21 births per 1,000 people.
In second place is Nyamira with 53 births per 1,000 people, followed by Bungoma (52.9), Kericho (51.4) and Migori (51.2). The top 10 also include Homa Bay (48), Narok (47.9), Turkana (47.6), Samburu (45) and Siaya (44).
Second from the rear after Kirinyaga is neighbouring Murang’a (22), followed by Busia (29), Nairobi (30) and Lamu (30.1).
A woman in North Eastern on average has six children, the highest by region.
Nationwide, the estimated births per 1,000 people plunged from 43 births in 2011 to 32 births, according to data from the statistical abstracts 2015 and 2017. Thirty nine counties recorded a birth rate higher than the national average.
Kajiado’s birth rate is double the national average. Kirinyaga’s dipped by almost a quarter, the biggest drop. It was followed by Nairobi (18 per cent) and Machakos (16 per cent).
Kirinyaga’s birth rate is declining five times faster than the counties that recorded the least decrease. They are Marsabit, Kitui, Isiolo, Makueni and Tharaka Nthi, which registered the lowest percentage fall of four per cent.
Figures from the latest Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey (KIHBS) reveal that more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of Kenyans are below age 35, a two percentage point drop from 2005. The number of Kenyans under 19 also reduced by three percentage points to 52 per cent over the same period.
The largest proportion of the population is in the five to nine years age group, which accounted for 14.4 per cent of the total population. The second largest group are those in the 0-4 years age group (13.4). In 2005, the reverse was true with those in age group 0-4 years contributing the largest share at 14.6 per cent followed by those in the 5-9 age group making up 14.5 per cent of the population. Those over the age of 64 account for about four per cent of the total population the same share as in 2005. The distribution by age depicts a youthful population, albeit one that is slowly growing older, in conformity with the population structure in developing countries.
A Kenyan woman gives birth to an average of four children, with rural women having at least one child more than their urban counterparts, according to the Kenya Demographics and Health Survey 2014. This is a drop from five children per woman in 2003. The number is higher than the global average of two children but lower than Africa’s average of five children.
Kenya’s fertility rate is the lowest in East Africa (3.9), followed by Rwanda (4.2), then Tanzania (5.2), Uganda (5.4) and Burundi (5.5).
A woman in North Eastern on average has six children, the highest by region. She is followed by her counterparts in Western and Rift Valley each with five, and then Nyanza and Coast (four each). Nairobi has the lowest fertility rate (2.7), followed by Central Kenya (2.8) and Eastern (3.4).
About one in 10 births were in Nairobi County, the highest share, despite the city being among top five counties with the lowest birth rates at 30 births per 1,000 people. This is because with a population of over four million, it is by far the most populous county. It was followed by Nakuru and Bungoma with each having five per cent of the births. Kakamega and Turkana accounted for four per cent share of all births. Lamu — the least populated county — had the smallest share of births in 2016 (0.3 per cent) followed by Isiolo (0.4 per cent). Taita Taveta, Marsabit and Tharaka Nithi each had one per cent of the estimated births.
Demographers say that the birth rate, which depends on the level of fertility and the age structure of the population, is the main factor in determining the rate of population growth.
In 2016, there were 1,417,712 estimated births and 484,517 estimated deaths. As a result, the population increased by about 933,195.
Nairobi’s population growth outpaced all the other counties to surge by a third to 4.5 million during the period under review. Despite having the fourth lowest birth rate Nairobi’s high population growth was aided by the fact that it has an estimated death rate of six per 1,000 people, the lowest in the country. Its death rate was also below the national average of 10 deaths per 1,000 people.
Samburu County had the second highest percentage growth of 22 per cent followed by Laikipia (20 per cent), which tied in third with Narok and Elgeyo Marakwet.
All the top 10 counties had a population growth of more than 20 per cent. Kitui, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Meru recorded the lowest percentage increase of about five per cent each. All the counties in the bottom 10 had population increase of less than nine per cent.
Overall, Kenya’s population increased by almost a third from 35.4 million to 45.8 million in the five years under review.
The proportion of people living in urban areas is growing. Two thirds of the population now live in rural areas, a significant drop from 80 per cent in 2005. Conversely, the number people living in towns increased by 16 percentage point to a third.
Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties were excluded from the review because the population given for the three counties in the statistical abstracts for 2011 and 2015 were the same as the population in 2009. Therefore, only 44 counties were examined.
The Newsplex birth rate calculation factored in population by county, births reported and births coverage rates compiled from the 2015 and 2017 national and county statistical abstracts.
The births coverage rates were included because not all births are registered in the civil registration and vital statistics system. For instance, 122 per cent of births in Kiambu were recorded in 2016, the highest percentage, but only 23 per cent were recorded in Narok. For this reason, the first step to calculating the estimated birth rate by county was to project what the figures would be if all births were reported.
Place of birth
Overall, three in five registered births were in health facilities. During the period under review, all the births registered in Nairobi occurred in health facilities. Nyamira County came in second, with 99.8 per cent of births in health facilities. Meru and Kiambu tied in third place with 99 per cent and Kirinyaga closed out the top five with 98 per cent. Kiambu and Busia counties had their coverage rates of births exceeding 100 per cent, at 122 per cent and 101 per cent respectively.
This implies that mothers from other counties were delivering in the health facilities of Kiambu and Busia counties. This could be attributed to the fact that these counties offer better maternal services than their neighbouring counties.