Healthcare in Kenya17th April 2007
Since gaining independence from British Colonial rule in 1963, following a decade of fierce guerrilla warfare and political unrest, Kenya has remained one of the most politically stable countries in Africa. However, it is also ranked as one of the thirty poorest nations in the world with over half its population living below the poverty line.
The nation’s basic infrastructure – roads, railways, electricity supply – is in disrepair and the same can be said of its healthcare system which is currently failing. There exists a mixture of private and public healthcare on offer. The Ministry of Health has built a pyramidal health referral system which extends from the Kenyatta National Hospital in the capital, Nairobi, through provincial and district hospitals to rural health centres in major towns and dispensaries in most rural locations. However, much of the time resources, staff and medicines are simply not available. This is most keenly felt in the highly populated slum areas in Nairobi and throughout the country’s rural communities where people often have to travel long distances to receive medical attention.
In a country with over 32 million residents, more than two million are HIV positive and 150,000 die every year from AIDS which has also orphaned around a million children. Life expectancy in Kenya is just 46 years of age as diseases like malaria and TB are on the rise. Infant mortality has risen by over 10% in the past five years and nearly half the population is undernourished. 35% of Kenyans have no access to health care services.
Aid agencies and third world charities are working with the Kenyan health authorities to combat the spread of HIV, TB and malaria. Mobile clinics have been set up to treat those who are unwell but also educate citizens in basic disease prevention and healthcare. However, the health and social problems of this nation are vast and a decent public healthcare system is an unlikely prospect for many years to come.
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