Monday, April 16, 2012

Kenya - some statistics

As part of my work I read a lot of reports. A lot. And within these reports are many many statistics about the state of Kenya. So I thought I'd share with you a couple that have really stood out for me in the past couple of weeks.

Now, I know statistics often do not tell the whole story (As Benjamin Disraeli is oft quoted as saying 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics'.) However I do think a few of them are striking, and taken together they do say a little about where Kenya is, and also I think, where it needs/should be.

1) Health in Kenya

There are 9 doctors in the whole of the North Eastern Province. 9. Well there were in 2007, the numbers may have improved since then but you get the idea. This is a province which had over a million inhabitants at that time (and probably has considerably more now due to the food crisis in Somalia last year). So a place with roughly the same population as Dublin has 9 doctors - or 1 doctor for everyone 120,000 people.

Now this is an extreme case but across Kenya there is a chronic shortage of doctors. The statistics for the country as a whole are better, with about 15 doctors per 100,000 people. This compares to Ireland which had 2,800 doctors per 100,000 in 2007.

A nice map from Territory size shows the
proportion of doctors that work in that country.

So how does the country survive when the health service is so chronically understaffed? The answer is Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs). These people are the backbone of the health service in Kenya. Some are voluntary, but many are renumerated. These people provide basic healthcare, refer people for further treatment etc. They also dispense healthcare advice and as such are vital allies for organisations like UNICEF in spreading messages of hygiene, good nutrition and feeding practices (especially for babies and young children) and warn of the potential causes, and ways to prevent, infectious diseases such as malaria and TB.

2) Young People in Kenya

The Kenyan population is an extremely young one. Those under 15 constitute 43% of the population and those under 34 (which is young people according to some definitions, I'm sure that will make lots of my readers feel pretty good!) make up over 78% of the population. So Kenya by any standards is a young country. Even Ireland, the youngest country in the EU, appears almost geriatric in comparison. 21% of Ireland's population is under 15 and 34% are under 25.

Such a big youth population could bring Kenya many opportunities but these young people face serious challenges. Currently a Kenyan young person can expect to live to 57, which is down from 59 twenty years ago. Enrolment rates for lower secondary school stand at 90% but drop significantly to 43% when upper secondary school is examined. Enrolment rates are always problematic indicators and we can assume that the numbers attending secondary school are lower than this.Unemployment is a huge problem amongst young people. The Kenya Vision 2030 strategy has estimated that up to 70% of young people are unemployed, and seriously under-employed.

Young women in particular face significant challenges.Over 10% of women who give birth are under 19.
27% of women aged 15 to 49 years have been mutilated or cut. This remains an important cultural practice in many parts, and within certain tribes, in Kenya . In fact the Kiswahili/Arabic word for female genital mutilation is still 'tohara' which means ritual cleansing. However, public support for the practice appears to be waning with just 9% of women in the same age bracket supporting the practice.(Unfortunately I have no data on male beliefs on the practice). The government has also passed legislation in recent months making the process illegal. 

(All of the above data is from UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2012 and 2011 unless otherwise stated)

3) Technology in Kenya

Kenya is one of the most tech savvy countries in Africa, despire some of the abovementioned challenges, or perhaps even because of them. Kenya is home to some truly innovative technology companies. In terms of statistics, Kenya's mobile phone network covers 86% of the population and there were 26 million subscribers as of September 2011 which is roughly 67% of the population overall (report from Communications Commission of Kenya available here). Kenya's mobile phone users have adapted quickly to new advancements in mobile technology. The a large proportion Kenya's 14 million internet users - over one third - access the internet via their mobile phone (CCK report). When you take out the 7 million that access the internet through 3rd parties (ie internet cafes) you can see that the vast majority of those who regularly access the internet do so via their mobile phone.

Kenyans also use their mobile phone to transfer money, pay utility bills and conduct banking transactions. M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer service operated by Safaricom, has revolutionised how business is conducted in Kenya. Over 18 million mobile money transfer subscriptions exist with transactions worth over 56 Billion Kenyan Shillings between July and September last year alone. That's about €518 million!
Even I have an M-Pesa account and I have used it to top-up my phone, transfer pay a deposit for accommodation and even pay my hairdresser. The sooner such technology becomes readily available in Ireland the better I say!

Another technological innovation that began life in Kenya and has since spread across many countries is
Ushahidi. Ushahidi is, according to its own website, an open source project that allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile. The word 'ushahidi' means testimony in Kiswahili. The platform was developed during the post-election violence of 2007/2008 as a means of collecting eye witness reports of violence, sent in via email or text message, and mapping them onto a google map. The original map can be seen here. Since then the platform has expanded rapidly and the software has been used to map areas of crisis in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake and the earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand as well as helping pro-democracy demonstrators organise and communicate during the Arab Spring last year.

What the ushahidi map looked like during the
 post-election violence in 2007/8.

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