Disparities in health

Thursday November 5 2009

Preliminary data from the 2008/2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), which shows that the fertility rate has declined from 4.9 births per woman in 2003 to 4.6 births today, seems to show progress in managing its population growth.

In lay terms, these figures mean that, on average, every 1,000 Kenyan women are now having 4,600 children in their lifetimes, down from 4,900 six years ago.

The conclusion is, the investments in contraception are paying off, with more women accepting to use the prophylactics to plan families.

A closer inspection of the preliminary figures released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), however, reveals worrying disparities.

While contraceptive use in Central Province, for example, stands at 67 per cent, the figure for North Eastern Province is just 4 per cent.

That such disparities extend to other aspects of reproductive health, such as antenatal and maternity care, means greater effort must be made to expand these services to disadvantaged areas if Kenya is to attain its Millennium Development Goals.

Greater efforts must be made to guarantee women’s reproductive health and the survival of new-borns. These should encompass not only contraception, but also such interventions as immunisation, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and diet supplementation.