27 February 2007

Kenya: Citizens Dying Young And Poor - UN Report

Nairobi — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says poverty, health, environment, crime and illiteracy is chopping the life expectancy "to slightly over 40 years" in some parts of the country.

The Kenya National Human Development Report, also says human insecurities is one of the greatest obstacles to human development.

"It is both a cause and a consequence of mass poverty," says the report.

It singles out Nyanza and Western provinces as the worst cases, where people live and die young.

Here, residents succumb to malaria, HIV/Aids and TB and many never see their 40th birthday.

One of every four people in Suba, Bondo and Homa Bay districts are not expected to survive beyond 40 years. The province's poor performance on the poverty index has also been attributed to lack of income earning opportunities due to illiteracy and poverty.

The story is the same in Western Province with 34 per cent of the population not expected to live beyond 40. In Bungoma, Kakamega, Lugari/Malava and Butere/Mumias a third of the people die before their 40th birthday.

Those living in Nairobi are also not lucky. The report says four of 10 people are likely to die before they hit 40. It says Nairobi has the lowest illiteracy levels at 17.6 per cent followed by Central (17.2), Nyanza (28.9) and Western (32). Coast and Rift Valley have the highest rural population illiteracy levels at 39 per cent.

There are less poor people in Central Province compared to North Eastern, where people live longer, but are poorer.

The report says the higher life expectancy in Central is supported by improved opportunities.

"Physical human insecurity is emanating from these insecurities," said Mr Elly Oduor, Senior Assistant Resident representative of UNDP during the launch of the report at a Nairobi hotel.

Incidentally, the report shows that access to education and health facilities has increased. This overall enrollment rates in schools is attributed to economic growth between 2004 and 2005, which also accounts for the increased access to healthcare.

Poverty high despite economic growth

The Government says the economic growth has risen to 5.8 per cent.

The report says that Kenya's economy has maintained the momentum that started in 2003, with most sectors recording accelerated growth in 2005. It cites a substantial increase in overall school enrolment rate in the last two years catapulted by the implementation of free primary education.

Primary school enrollment has increased from 7.4 million in 2004 to 7.6 million pupils in 2005. Enrolment in secondary schools rose from 923,134 students in 2004 to 928,149 students in 2005.

However, despite this increment, majority of Kenyans are still caught in the poverty trap.

Because poverty may lead to diminished access to medical care, increased exposure to environmental risks and malnutrition, ill health is also often a consequence of poverty.

Of the highest of Kenya's provincial administrative regions, Nairobi leads in growth. Its robust income component is due to relatively numerous services, resources and opportunities that it offers as a major urban centre and the country's capital.

North Eastern Province has the least human development score owing to low and declined incomes in the last two years.

The province is a low potential area that is often prone to insecurities due to cattle rustling, conflicts over water resources and cross-border skirmishes with neighbouring countries.

Glaring inequalities

The report also cites inequality in the distribution of resources, which it says favours the high potential areas.

Kenyan districts also fare quite differently in terms of achievements in human development. The districts in the high growth category tend to be either urban centers with industrial concentrations or in the high potential areas.

The districts in the low growth category are mainly in the arid and semi-Arid lands or in the low potential marginalised zones that are also prone to security problems.

The report also captures life expectancy, poverty index, crime rate and gender in the last two years. It indicates that Central Province recorded the second highest growth.

This is because Central Province and parts of Rift Valley fall within the country's high potential zones that can provide food and income-earning opportunities.

Regionally, the report shows that areas with low growth rates and low gender development index, such as North Eastern Province, have encountered persistent human insecurity in the form of conflict and natural disasters.


The report cites insecurity and mismanagement of public resources as the main impediments to Kenya 's economic growth. It indicts the Government's policy on reduction of poverty over its alleged failure to address economic inequalities and glaring income gaps.

UNDP country resident representative, Ms Elizabeth Lwanga, said the report examines the mutually reinforcing link between human security and human development.

She said without human security, there is little opportunity to enhance capabilities.

The report places human security threats into seven categories: economic, food, health, environment, personal, community and political.

It states that human security progress human development by providing means to live a long, healthy and productive life, to access knowledge, to meet basic needs, and to participate freely in public life.

Guaranteed security, the report says, boosts progress through growth, sustainable and equal wealth, health and education, improved poverty levels, job creation gender equality, environment management and good governance.

To address the human development situation, the report says Kenya needs effective interventions, adequate institutional cooperation and committed partnerships.

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