NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4- Kenya has recorded the lowest fertility rate ever at 4.6 births per woman compared to the highest (8.1) in 1978, according to the just released 2008-09 demographic health survey.
The survey which was launched on Wednesday was based on 9,936 households comprising 6,650 rural households and 3,286 urban households and indicated that the current fertility rate had declined from 4.9 births per woman in 2003.
Principal Economist at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Christopher Omolo said Kenya’s health system had improved significantly with the report showing a decline in infant mortality at 52 down from 77 and a decline of deaths in children under five from 115 to 74 per 1,000 live births.
“Infant mortality – which is death before the first birthday – has decreased by 42 percent while child mortality (death between the first and fifth birthday) declined by 36 percent. This is quite an achievement and we are on the right track,” he said.
The report also pointed out that 99 percent of children below six months were breastfed with the proportion declining with age. It revealed that supplementation of breast milk started early with 60 percent of children aged four to five months being given complementary foods.
It read in part: “Exclusive breastfeeding is not common as only 32 percent of children below six months are fed on breast milk only. Most are given plain water or other milk as supplements.”
Mr Omolo further held that breast feeding and the introduction of supplements at the right time were crucial to the health of children especially under the age of two, adding that exclusive breastfeeding should be done up to the age of six months.
“We could do better when it comes to breast feeding. 36 percent of mothers breastfeed and provide complementary foods and only one percent of mothers don’t breast feed. However we should increase the breast feeding period,” he said.
He also said that the percentage of births occurring in health facilities had increased from 40 percent in 2003 (when the survey was last conducted) to 43 percent in the just concluded survey. He also said antenatal care had increased.
“Antenatal care from a health professional dropped from 92 percent in 1998 to 88 percent in 2003. It has now improved to 92 percent and the number of deliveries in health facilities has also increased,” he said.
Mr Omolo said there had been an upward trend in the intake of contraceptives since 1978 where only seven percent of women used the family planning tools.
“46 percent of currently married women use some form of contraceptive. Modern ones are most common at 39 percent while traditional ones stand at six percent. Injectibles are the most common modern method while periodic abstinence is the most popular traditional method,” he explained.
He also stated that contraceptive prevalence peaked among married women in the 30-34 age group and was lowest among women aged 15-19. The report also showed that a higher percentage of urban women used contraceptives compared to their rural counterparts.
“53 percent of urban women compared to 43 percent of those in rural areas use contraceptives. Married women in central province continue to have the highest contraceptive prevalence at 67 percent, followed by Nairobi at 55 and Eastern province with 52 percent. The lowest level of family planning use was recorded in North Eastern at four percent,” he explained.
Present at the launch of the report was Assistant Minister for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 Alfred Khang’ati who stated the data would go a long way towards planning and facilitating the country’s Vision 2030.
“It is very important that you put this information to use. You don’t just spend time, money and effort putting the information together and then you don’t put it to necessary use. I want to underscore the importance of data in planning and in our desire to take our country to the next level,” he held.
He added that Kenya had been unable to manage its resources because it lacked proper information further emphasising the importance of data. He also called on the government to invest in maternal health care.
“We cannot expect our children to perform well in school if they do not get good health care. This starts from conception to birth and goes on. Women’s health is therefore very important,” he stated.
Director General of KNBS Anthony Kilele said the report provided representative data that would assist plan proper health care for Kenyans adding that it would be used to gauge and project future trends.
Some of the partners that helped KNBS gather and analyze the data included USAID who gave US$3.1 million and UNICEF who donated $500,000 for technical and support for the North Eastern blocks. Others include National AIDS Control Council, United Nations Population Fund and the National AIDS/STD Control Programme.
Other variances that were used were malaria, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and sexual behavior. However their data could not be immediately available.