Struggles Facing the Kenyan Health Care System

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Posted on 4/1/2013

Trainer Anne Kanini and community health volunteer Josephine Umazi use illustrations to explain good nutrition during a home visit in Kilifi County. Photo by Jake Lyell.

With a population of more than 43 million people, Kenya is one of the most populous sovereign nations in East Africa. Boasting some of the most impressive scenery in the world, including vast savannah, rugged mountain ranges and stunning national parks, Kenya is a popular destination for tourists. Despite its breathtaking natural beauty, Kenya faces a number of serious problems, including widespread poverty, income inequality, and lack of access to healthcare. One of the biggest challenges in Kenya is to make healthcare available to all of its citizens. With approximately half its population living in poverty, Kenya struggles to provide access to basic health care services and medical treatment to its citizens, especially those living in rural communities and the densely populated slums.

Serious Setbacks

According to UNICEF, Kenya was considered to be one of Africa's success stories in terms of economic development and access to basic services such as health care and education. However, the violence that erupted amid allegations of political corruption in the country's presidential elections in 2007 resulted in numerous setbacks to government programs, including reform of the country's ailing health care system.

Data from the World Bank indicate that Kenya's national gross domestic product (GDP) was an estimated $33.6 billion in 2011. In comparison to some other developing countries, this could be considered quite healthy. However, according to the World Health Organization, only 4.6 percent of the nation's GDP was invested in its health care system. With more than 43 million children under the age of 15 living in Kenya, this lack of investment has serious implications for the country's urgent health care problems. Kenya’s health care system cannot meet the vast needs.

Despite making significant gains in promoting awareness of health and wellness in Kenya, preventable diseases remain a serious issue. Malaria is one of the country's biggest problems, with thousands of children dying every year from this treatable disease. Although rates of HIV and AIDS infection have slowed in recent years, millions of families are impacted by these serious conditions. Poor sanitation in urban areas and a lack of affordable medications in rural communities further contribute to the spread of disease, and many children do not have access to even basic healthcare.

malnourished child

Epas rests in his mother's arms after being treated for malnutrition in the child nutritional ward at Lokitaung District Hospital. Photo by Jake Lyell.

Working Together

ChildFund has operated in Kenya since 1960 and has worked with government agencies, other child development groups and nongovernmental organizations to improve the health care system in Kenya. In 2011, the Kenyan government entered into an alliance with the Peace Corps, USAID, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify a workable strategy, and the Global Health Initiative's (GHI) Kenya Strategy 2011-2014 has identified several key goals for improving healthcare in Kenya.

One of the primary goals of the Kenya Strategy is to provide greater access to healthcare and wellness services for women and girls living in poverty, who are at risk of developing health conditions related to inadequate prenatal care, and maternal, neonatal and child mortality. In addition, the introduction of heightened control strategies to contain the spread of neglected tropical diseases, such as malaria, is another goal of the GHI's three-year plan.

Although the Kenyan government receives funding from international aid organizations, there are many ways you can help ChildFund improve access to healthcare and the lives of Kenyan children. Sponsoring a child in Kenya is an excellent way to invest in the life and well-being of a child, as sponsorship enables us to provide vulnerable children with access to healthcare, educational services and community support. Alternatively, choosing a gift from our Real Gifts catalog allows you to select a specific way to help.

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