The Kenya Forum | Child Mortality in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa - The Kenya Forum

March 20, 2023


The rate of infant mortality in the country has fallen to 32.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 34.056 per 1,000 in 2020.

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Child Mortality in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa

Child Mortality in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa

Photo courtesy UNICEF

Data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals a disturbing reality in the third decade of the 21st Century: children born in sub-Saharan Africa – including Kenya – are at the highest risk of death in childhood in the world.

Compared to children in Europe and North America the findings by UNIEF show that Kenyan children are 15 times more at risk of dying in childhood and 19 times more than children in Australia and New Zealand.

Not All Bad News…

There is, however, some encouraging news in respect of child mortality in Kenya.

Data released by the Kenya Ministry of Health (MoH) at the end of 2022 showed the rate of infant mortality in the country had fallen to 32.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 34.056 per 1,000 in 2020.

The MoH figures at least show that there has been a 30 per cent fall in the number of children dying before their fifth birthday.

Although still shockingly high, the MoH figures show a marked improvement over previous years which the ministry puts down to better and improved breast-feeding practices and increased uptake of oral re-hydration salts and Zinc that have helped to combat diarrhoea in children under five years old.

The introduction too of new vaccines such as pneumococcal and rotavirus, together with the greater use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, has also assisted in bringing down child mortality rates, say the MoH, as has the increase in the number of skilled birth attendants.

UNICEF – 50 Million Deaths Per Year, 13,800 per Day


The world made remarkable progress in child survival in the past three decades, and millions of children have better survival chances than in 1990—1 in 26 children died before reaching age five in 2021, compared to 1 in 11 in 1990. Moreover, progress in reducing child mortality rates has been accelerated in the 2000s period compared with the 1990s, with the annual rate of reduction in the global under-five mortality rate increasing from 1.8 per cent in 1990s to 4.0 per cent for 2000-2009 and 2.7 per cent for 2010-2021.

The under-five mortality rate refers to the probability a newborn would die before reaching exactly 5 years of age, expressed per 1,000 live births. In 2021, 5.0 million children under 5 years of age died. Globally, infectious diseases, including pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, remain a leading cause of under-five deaths, along with preterm birth and intrapartum-related complications.

The global under-five mortality rate declined by 59 per cent, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 38 in 2021. Despite this considerable progress, improving child survival remains a matter of urgent concern. In 2021 alone, roughly 13,800 under-five deaths occurred every day, an intolerably high number of largely preventable child deaths.

See also, from the Kenya Forum archive, ‘Don’t Laugh This Sh!t is Serious!


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