by Ronald Njoroge
Kenya’s urban child mortality gap between the rich and poor has widened over the past 25 years, according to a report released in Nairobi on Tuesday by the international charity Save the Children.
The report reveals that Kenya’s poorest urban children are four times more likely to die as compared to the richest urban children before they reach the age of five.
“The infant mortality for the poor currently stands at 75 per 1, 000 live births compared to the richest segment at 19 per 1,000,” the report shows.
However, in 1990, the infant mortality for the urban poor was only twice that of the urban rich.
The report, which covers 179 countries globally, indicates that over the last 25 years there has been a significant reduction in the number of children dying from preventable deaths.
A key finding of the 16th annual State of the World’s Mother Report dubbed “The Urban Disadvantage” is that globally there are 17,000 fewer deaths per day for children under the age of five compared to 1990.
The report says that urbanization will occur most rapidly in Africa and Asia and recommends authorities in the two continents to increase health investments in urban areas to ensure that even the poor households in cities have access to adequate health services.
The report ranked Kenya 138 out of 179 countries, an improvement from last year’s ranking of 143.
According to the study, Kenya is among the five countries in Africa with the greatest child survival gap. The other countries are Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria and Rwanda.
Save the Children Kenya Country Duncan Harvey said while Kenya has made progress, it has not been as rapidly as expected.
“So we encourage the Kenyan government to learn from other successful countries so as to reduce the number of preventable deaths,” Harvey said.
He added that in the past few years, Kenya has implemented a number of interventions aimed at reducing child and maternal deaths.
Some of these include the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s health campaign, Beyond Zero Campaign, free maternity services as well as the expansion of immunization to reach even the most disadvantaged communities.
Harvey said Kenya’s northeast and northwestern region also have high rates of infant mortality. The country director noted that one of the worst places for a mother to live is in the urban slums.
“Fortunately, we know the low cost interventions that work to reduce infant mortality,” he said.
Harvey said as the global community moves to establish the post Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it needs to highlight the reduction income equality so as to end preventable deaths.
He urged the government to commit resources to the most disadvantaged children. He also asked Kenya to implement nutrition programmes in order to reduce the number of undernourished children.
“We know 45 percent of cases of infant mortality are caused by malnutrition,” he said.
Save the Children urged the governments to develop cross- sectoral urban plans that will ensure informal settlements have access to health services.
“There is also need to mobilize more resources and dedicate them to addressing the high rates of child and maternal mortality so as to accelerate progress to end infant deaths,” Harvey said.
Kenya Pediatric Association Chairman David Githanga said that Kenya will not achieve the MDGs on child and maternal health. “The key reason is that Kenya has not reduced the infant mortality rate for child under the age of 30 days,” Githanga said.
He said neonatal deaths accounts for up to 40 percent of deaths of children under the age of five years. Githanga said that inequality in income is strongly associated with deaths of children.
“So the government needs to take action to prevent people from sinking into poverty,” he said.
According to Githanga, the urban poor pay a lot more for basic services such as water than the rich.
“This makes the slum dweller vulnerable to diseases that are caused by poor hygiene,” he said. Enditem