A woman living in Mandera, Wajir and Marsabit counties is likely to give birth to at least seven children, despite national statistics showing a sharp decline in fertility.
The 2022 Economic Survey released on Thursday shows that Kenya’s fertility rate has dropped from about eight children per woman in 1963 to an average of 3.4 births per 1,000 women.
Total fertility rate is the number of live births a woman would have within her reproductive life span of between 15 and 49 years.
From the findings, the Singulate Mean Age at Marriage (SMAM) was 27.3 years for males, and 23.1 for females. SMAM indicates the timing of the first marriage. Young people have lately been delaying marriage, with males taking longer than females.
From the data, counties where a mother is likely to give birth to more than four children include Mandera with the highest fertility at eight births per woman, followed by Marsabit (seven), Wajir (6.7), Turkana (6.4), West Pokot (5.7), Tana River (5.2), Samburu (4.9), Garissa (4.4), Kwale (4.3), Isiolo (4.1) with Baringo recording four births per woman.
Women in Nairobi are likely to give birth to only two children, with the county recording the lowest fertility at 2.5 births per woman, with Nyamira, Kiambu, Kirinyaga and Machakos recording 2.7 births per woman. Kisii and Makueni have 2.8, with Nyeri, Embu, Meru, Mombasa and Tharaka Nithi recording 2.9 births per woman each.
The survey targeted female respondents aged 12 and above, by asking them birth history questions on children ever born alive; children living in the household or elsewhere; children born alive but later died; date of the last child born by sex and whether single or multiple births.
According to a study published in the Lancet last week by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 births per 1,000 women, projecting it will fall below 1.7 births per 1,000 women by 2100.
Declining birth rates
As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. The overall trend in declining birth rates per woman is largely due to women's changing roles, employment shifts and advances in reproductive health.
But why are women in Northern Kenya particularly still giving birth to more children at a time when women are becoming more learned, more enlightened and more freed from the demands of their men and in a country with more intense family planning programmes?
The most recent edition of the Performance Monitoring for Action Kenya 2022 report states that some of the counties with the high fertility rate are recording the lowest number of women on modern contraceptives.
Women who have gone to school are four times more likely to plan their families than girls who have no formal education; yet, as Kenya becomes more and more literate, there has been little change in levels of knowledge of contraceptive methods in Northern Kenya. Counties with higher childhood mortality also need a higher fertility rate.
In Northern Kenya, for instance, the average number of children per woman is seven, with 42 child deaths per 100 births. The Western region records an average of six children per woman, with 12 child deaths per 100 births.
Rift Valley also records six per woman, with six child deaths per 100, while Nyanza has five children, with 15 child deaths per 100 births. Eastern and Central report four and three children per woman, respectively, and five child deaths per 100 births. In Nairobi, the average number of children per woman is three, with six child deaths per 100 births.
From the data collected in 11 counties, Nyamira leads with the number of women on modern contraceptives at 69 per cent, followed by Nandi, Nairobi and Kericho at 68 per cent; Kiambu 67; Kitui 65; Kakamega 64; Bungoma 63; Siaya 60; Kilifi 49; with West Pokot at 30 per cent.
As the population grows, you have more and more women giving birth, which means that, for sustainability, the number of children these women are having should reduce as the mothers increase.
At independence, one out of every six children died before their fifth birthday, but their prospects of living to adulthood have since improved tremendously as a result of the intense family planning programmes.
Family planning is an essential component of achieving development goals for health, poverty reduction, gender equality, and environmental sustainability.
Kenya has made notable strides to improve the uptake of modern contraceptives. In 2020, the country attained a contraceptive prevalence of 61 per cent, surpassing the target of 58 per cent. This year, we are stuck at 61 per cent.
The country has since revised its number to 66 per cent by 2030 and 70 by 2050, however, the country has witnessed a worsening stock out of commodities including implants, injectable, pills and male condoms in the last two years.