What if Jesus was born in Kenya today?

BD birth of Jesus. PHOTO|Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • There is a 14% prevalence of malnutrition among pregnant women in Isiolo according to a February 2020 report.
  • According to Unicef, most children under the age of five are likely to be affected by diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, HIV and tuberculosis.
  • If Jesus were born in Isiolo County today, he would definitely suffer due to the ravaging drought. 

When they started their journey from Nazareth, it was just Mary, Joseph and a donkey. After covering about 150 kilometres to get to Bethlehem for the census, Mary’s water broke on a night that there was an influx of visitors at the town. 
On that silent night, Mary was racked by labour pain and Joseph, a first time dad, had no option but to lead her to a stable, ignoring the dung stink to bring forth their first child; Jesus. 
While there is no account of a midwife being present, Christians are told that Jesus was laid in a manger after he was born – no weighing was done, no first bath, no hospital machines, but the parents beamed with joy.
When Jesus was born eons ago, there was no health insurance and we are not told whether hospitals existed. It is not clear whether the census that his parents were going for included health indicators like we do in the present day. 
One thing that’s for sure is that people fell sick, and when he grew up, he healed some of them. Did he ever get sick? We don’t know.
If Jesus were to be born in 2022, he would be a Generation Alpha, the generation that succeeds the most famed Gen Z.
With only five days to commemorate his birth, we take a look at what it would be like had he been born in Kenya today? Which town, or city in Kenya would boast of having the best healthcare, fit for a Messiah?
 In this article, we will do a comparison of Nairobi and Isiolo counties, assessing different health indicators from birth to death.

Maternal health indicators

African American Woman pregnant. PHOTO| Shutterstock

In Isiolo County, data from the Health ministry in collaboration with the county shows a two-sided trend for pregnant women; one positive and the other quite dispiriting. If Mary lived there, she would have been at risk of malnutrition. The Isiolo County Integrated Smart Survey Report that was published in February 2020 shows that there is a 14 per cent prevalence of malnutrition among pregnant women, thanks to drought. 
But even with the risk of malnutrition, there is a gleam of hope as 94 per cent of women in Isiolo go for antenatal care visits, crucial for all pregnant mothers. According to the United Nations Populations Fund, Isiolo was one of the counties selected by the government to pilot Universal Health Coverage because of its high maternal death rate.
In Nairobi County, there are the haves and the have-nots. The Nairobi County Integrated Smart Survey report shows a disparity between children born in informal settlements and those in well-to-do neighbourhoods. Those in informal settlements, unlike their counterparts, are likely to be born with low birth weights. A study conducted by Kenyan researchers and published by the scientific journal BMJ shows that 88.7 per cent of women in Nairobi give birth at a health facility. However, those from informal settlements are likely to die, with data showing that 700 in every 100, 000 live births are bound to die from maternal related complications.
In the country, Unfpa data shows that there are 362 deaths in every 100,000 live births recorded.


The Bible does not outrightly say that Jesus breastfed, and so we are left to fill that out for ourselves. The latest Kenya Demographic Health Survey (2014) shows that the recommended exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life is at about 61 per cent, but this varies across the country.
Had he been born in Isiolo County, latest research by three Kenyan researchers led by Dorcas Amunga that was published in the Food and Nutrition Journal shows that he would largely benefit from breastfeeding in his first year, and negligibly in subsequent years. 
The study shows that breastfeeding in Isiolo declines from 94 per cent to 64 per cent after the first year. It also shows that female children are more likely to continue breastfeeding (63 per cent) compared to their male counterparts (37 per cent).
In Nairobi County, a study conducted by Prof Ruth Nduati and colleagues from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Nairobi shows that working mothers can no longer sustain a six month exclusive breastfeeding schedule.
“Despite a widespread recognition of the recommended six months duration for exclusive breastfeeding, employed mothers describe early cessation of exclusive breast feeding in preparation for their return to work, following a mandated three-month maternity leave. Husbands of employed women support it and would like to see the duration extended, but note similar challenges,” states the study.


Mr Micah Japhet, a health officer, administers polio vaccines to a five year old child in Makongeni Estate in Makadara Constituency. Nairobi is one of the nine prone counties where polio vaccination commenced on November 30 2019. Migration of people from Somalia into Kenya is believed to be responsible for three cases of polio discovered thereby necessitating a vaccination drive. Other counties where the vaccination is being done are Meru, Machakos, Kiambu, Kisii, Kakamega and some parts of North Eastern.PHOTO|SILA KIPLAGAT

In 1980, the country launched the Kenya Expanded Programme on Immunisation. It later devoted itself to immunising about 90 per cent of children by 2020. Therefore, if the Messiah was born today, he would likely be vaccinated. At birth, he would have been given the BCG vaccine, which is meant to protect children against tuberculosis. And then, there is a double dose rotavirus vaccine given at week six and another at week 10. There is also the oral polio vaccine given thrice at week six, 10 and 14. Other vaccines are diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT), hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza-Type B, measles and yellow fever. In the North Eastern, where Isiolo County is located, a study shows that the child immunisation rate is at 42 per cent. 

Environment indicators

Our environment has an impact on our health. At the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA3), a resolution was adopted to make Health and Environment collaborative. The key areas that were agreed upon were: chemicals and waste, climate, biodiversity, antimicrobial resistance and sustainable consumption and production.
If Jesus were born in Isiolo County today, he would definitely suffer due to the ravaging drought. 
A study published by the International Institute for Environment in 2016 shows that the quality of the county’s air, water and locally produced foods is high. It also indicates that noise and pollution in general is relatively low.
“Increasing temperatures, evapotranspiration, water scarcity and ongoing climatic variability limit human consumption, health and productive activities that require water, deplete groundwater reserves to buffer future droughts, reduce vegetative cover and threaten biodiversity,” states the study.
In Nairobi County, on the other hand, there is both water and air pollution. As a result of poor air quality, people are likely to develop health issues mostly related to the respiratory system such as asthma and lung issues. Other complications include miscarriages, low birth weight, birth defects, cancers and heart diseases.
Water pollution, especially in informal settlements, contributes to diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. 
Chemicals and waste also have an impact on people’s health in Nairobi. Studies show that one of the ways that people develop antimicrobial resistance is by eating poultry. 

Disease profile of children, teens.

Food being served to school children at Shambani Primary school in Isiolo County serve pupils lunch on October 19, 2022. The school is among 23 schools in arid and semi-arid areas that received food aid from Lewa conservancy. The government which used to run a school feeding programme in the area has not supplied food since last term. PHOTO|CHARLES WANYORO

The only likelihood of Jesus going to the hospital when he was below the age of five, had he been born in our fantasy world, would be for circumcision.
According to the Jewish traditions, a child had to be circumcised eight days after being born. In the country, depending on one’s cultural background, one can opt for the child to get cut in hospital or at home traditionally. 
Nairobi County is metropolitan, so each family chooses its preference based on its culture. There is no official data for Isiolo County on their preference for circumcision
According to Unicef, most children under the age of five are likely to be affected by diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, HIV and tuberculosis; all of which are preventable. As they grow older, they are likely to be affected by non-communicable diseases, mental health and injuries.

Midlife ailments

At midlife, Jesus was at the peak of his career. He had a following, in the name of disciples. Had he been born in the modern age, he would have had a great following on social media. It is on social media these days that some people create a sense of identity. Should they not get the expected “love” online, they tend to be depressed and start indulging in drugs such as alcohol. 
According to the World Bank’s 2018 data, Kenyans aged 15 years and above take about 2.78 litres of alcohol each and smoking rate is at 13 per cent. At this age, most Kenyans are likely to develop heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers and acute abdominal conditions. In Kenya, this age group is the most vulnerable to road accidents.

Life expectancy

Jesus lived only for 33 years. In the country, the latest data from the Sustainable Development Goals Report published this year shows that life expectancy increased by 8 per cent because of the gains made in reducing child mortality and the decline in the incidence of communicable diseases. However, the report shows that there were notable disparities from different counties.
Data from the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis shows that Isiolo County has the highest life expectancy at 67.45 years.
The SDG report on NCDs shows that the country intends to reduce suicide mortality rate by one third by the year 2030. The suicide mortality rate in the country is estimated to be 11.1 per 100,000 population. The set target is 8.3. The data shows that suicide death rate in Kenya is higher than that of Africa and the world.
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