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Childhood mortality remains high despite health reforms

Early childhood mortality in the Luo Nyanza region is alarming, despite heightened efforts to improve child and maternal health.

Data from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2022 shows that Migori County has the highest number of infant deaths, at 53 deaths per 1,000 live births. Kisumu recorded the least number, 40 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Siaya and Homa Bay counties recorded 45 and 42 deaths, respectively, against the national average of 32 deaths per 1,000 live births in the latest report conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Worryingly, the survey further reveals that Migori County recorded the highest death rate of children under the age of five years at 73 deaths per 1,000 live births; Siaya County was second at 63. Homa Bay recorded 61, with Kisumu having the lowest under-5 mortality rate at 45, above Kenya’s average of 41 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Speaking during the KDHS dissemination forum held in Kisumu County Godfrey Otieno, KNBS official, said the report has brought to light significant milestones in health indicators and identified areas that require urgent intervention in the region.

“The survey indicators show where we are and where we need to go.  In the Nyanza region, Kisumu has performed well compared to other counties in a number of indicators. The county leadership needs to leverage the insights provided by the KDHS 2022 to work towards improved healthcare access and quality,” Otieno stated.

Godfrey Otieno, from KNBS address a media briefing during the KDHS 2022 dissemination forum held in Kisumu County. Photos by Trevor John

Kisumu County Medical Services Director Dr. Don Ogola reiterated the county’s commitment to use the findings in shaping policy decisions, programmes, and interventions to enhance health outcomes.

Dr. Ogola emphasised the role of Community Health Providers (CHPs) that have been engaged to enhance the healthcare system, leading to reduced mortality rates in Lakeside County.

“Birth outcomes start on conception day. The Medical Services Department has focused on capacity building and performance contract rewards for the CHPs to reach out to pregnant women and ensure they promote up to 8 antenatal clinic visits as recommended by WHO,” he stated.

The leading probable causes of infant deaths, Dr. Ogola added, include lack of check-ups for pregnancy complications, unskilled antenatal care provision, and communicable diseases.

“The main cause of under-5 mortalities is pneumonia, which is a communicable disease. Kisumu’s strategic plan envisions to eliminate communicable diseases. To achieve this, we have increased immunisation coverage for children to combat such illnesses,” he elaborated.

KDHS 2022 was implemented by the KNBS in collaboration with the Health Ministry and other stakeholders through funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank.

Others are the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Nutrition International, the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

By Robert Onjwang’

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