Kenya’s fertility rate dropping

Macdonald Obudho

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director-General Macdonald Obudho (left), KNBS board chairman Stephen Wainaina (right) and Economic Planning PS James Muhati (centre) during the launch of the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi yesterday. 

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

 The number of children born by a Kenyan woman has halved in the past 30 years, a trend that experts endorse as positive for the country’s health outcomes.

The Demographic Health Survey, whose data was released by the Kenya National Bureau of Standards (KNBS) yesterday, shows that an average Kenyan woman will likely have 3.4 children in her lifetime.

This number has been plunging since the first survey that was done in 1989. Experts Nation spoke to yesterday attributed the decline in the fertility rate to education of women and girls, use of family planning methods and the desire to have a quality life.

The decline is not happening in Kenya alone, as data from the World Economic Forum shows that there has been a 50 per cent decline globally in the past 70 years. Family sizes are shrinking in Kenya’s urban areas but burgeoning in rural households.

Mr Francis Kundu, the Assistant Director in charge of Population Health and Environment at the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD), explained that a decline in the fertility rate means that women are getting fewer children.

“This means that the pace at which the population will grow will slow down, giving ample time for the economy to generate enough resources for its people,” he said.

Mr Kundu argued that the emphasis on women and girls’ education has contributed to a decline in the fertility rate, adding that the longer a woman stays in school, the more empowered she becomes.

“Women are now aware that, once they get a child when in school or at the onset of their careers, it slows them down for a few years before they bounce back,” he said, adding that a lower fertility rate also has an impact on life expectancy.

“If the fertility rate is high, more children are also likely to have a higher mortality rate because they may lack quality care. Such children are also prone to diseases and may miss out on antenatal care and vaccination, which is crucial for their health,” he said.

The KDHS data also shows that four in every ten teenage pregnancies are from women who have no form of education as compared to only five per cent of women who have more than secondary education. The data also shows that a woman who has grown in a fairly wealthy household is less likely to fall in the teenage pregnancy category.

Dr Helen Kiarie, the head of monitoring and evaluation at the Health ministry, told Nation yesterday that a declining fertility rate is “mostly a good thing”.

Women are meant to get children in a well-planned manner for better health outcomes for themselves and their children, she said.

“We have noticed a disparity in the data. The regions in the country with a higher fertility rate are also the ones with low uptake of family planning methods. Once we create a balance in all counties, then our fertility rate will be in good shape,” she said.

“Some counties in Central region had a higher uptake of contraceptives but had lower fertility rates, the ripple effect this has is that they become economically empowered,” she said.

Dr Kiarie said a country has to monitor its citizens’ fertility rate so as to better assess the health and socioeconomic outcomes for the population.

“Such data helps in coming up with policies that cater for the well-being of children. For women also, it is advisable that they space their children for better health outcomes,” she said.