Kenya is a coastal country located in East Africa. The nation is developing significantly in terms of economy and healthcare provision. However, since there is a high prevalence of natural disasters and poverty, there are recognizable problems when it comes to healthcare in Kenya. For instance, there are 8.3 nurses and 1.5 doctors per 10,000 people. These numbers fall drastically short of the WHO recommendation of 25 nurses and 36 doctors per 10,000 people. Here are six of the major issues related to healthcare in Kenya and how the country is addressing them.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Kenya

  1. In 2016, malaria was the leading cause of mortality in Kenya. The CDC reported that there are nearly 3.5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths each year. Nevertheless, treatments are on the rise. Long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets and artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) have proven to be effective prevention and treatment. ACTs are fast-acting and “artemisinin-based compounds are combined with a drug from a different class” to make the treatment. Since the early 2010s, access to ACTs has increased significantly, though there is still a need for access to them in rural areas. In 2019, the WHO reported that Kenya became the third country to implement the world’s first malaria vaccine. Children receive this vaccine as part of routine immunizations, and experts expect it to lower malaria cases significantly in Kenya.
  2. Kenya has one of the highest rates of HIV-infection in the world. UNAIDS reports that, in 2018, 1.6 million Kenyans were living with HIV. Of this population, Avert, a resource for information on HIV and AIDS, states that more than half are unaware of their HIV status. Fortunately, the Kenyan Ministry of Health has announced that HIV cases are decreasing, with the HIV prevalence standing at 4.9% as of February 2020. To improve HIV status awareness, the Kenyan government has partnered with the EGPAF to invest in door-to-door testing campaigns and self-testing kits. The program has emphasized aiding counties with high or rising HIV prevalence. Additionally, UNAIDS reported that 91% of HIV-positive pregnant women were able to access antiretroviral treatment in 2018.
  3. Kenya is one of the most highly industrialized countries in East Africa, meaning that pollution is prevalent. Air pollution in Kenya causes death both directly and indirectly. The State of Global Air reports that, in 2017, air pollution directly caused 4,710 deaths in Kenya. Indirectly, air pollution has increased cases of pneumonia, tuberculosis, water pollution and diarrheal diseases, which are among the top fatal diseases in the country. The combined direct and indirect deaths from air pollution total approximately 18,000 each year. However, there is hope for improvement. Inventions like air sensors can report data about air quality. Kenyans are using these sensors to report data via social media and pressure leaders into making change.
  4. Cancer cases in Kenya are on the rise. As a noncommunicable disease, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Kenya. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) reports that Kenya has 47,000 new cases every year. The UICC also notes that cancer tends to appear in the younger population, and this trend is attributed to lifestyle and environmental changes. To address this crisis, the country is investing in cancer research and support. Additionally, the Kenyan Parliament passed a law to address proper cancer management.
  5. Infant deaths are one of the greatest challenges facing healthcare in Kenya. UNICEF reports that 74,000 children in Kenya die before the age of five each year. These deaths are often caused by poverty, as many families cannot easily access the resources needed for child healthcare. One such resource is insurance. According to the WHO, in 2018, 80% of the Kenyan population did not have any insurance. As a result, the government set aside $40-45 million to establish Universal Health Coverage to help more people to access appropriate healthcare services.
  6. There is a stigma surrounding mental health in Kenya. As a result, there are limited resources allocated to mental health awareness, and Kenyans resist seeking help for mental health issues. Despite this stigma, there is intensive research being done to engage both informal and formal health practitioners in addressing mental health problems to improve healthcare in Kenya.


Kenya is determined to address the most challenging problems related to healthcare in the country. There is an emphasis on research and investing in resources to help more people to access better and more affordable healthcare services. Healthcare in Kenya is expected to see improvement in the coming years.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

The 3030 ProjectIn 2014, musician Ryan Lewis, a member of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hip-hop duo, became the first to donate to the 30/30 Project, the project that he helped his mother, Julie, kickstart. As a thirty-year survivor of HIV, Julie Lewis designed the project with the goal of building thirty healthcare facilities worldwide. It is virtually impossible for people living in poverty to receive treatments, considering “Just one month’s supply of a typical antiretroviral drug costs more than the annual income of most Malawians.” But, these new facilities will give people access to treatments for life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Lewis family saw the injustice and pledged to make a positive change. After all, their motto for the project states, “Healthcare is a human right.”

Lewis and his musical partner, Macklemore, started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $100,000. This went towards the first phase of the project, which is building a non-profit health center in Neno District, Malawi. The campaign exceeded its goal, raising over $150,000. So, the excess will be used for the next phase, which is a non-profit clinic in Kangundo, Kenya.

Dambe Health Center

Just like they promised, the 30/30 Project completed construction of the Dambe Health Center in the Neno District of Malawi in August 2015.

Partners in Health opened the clinic in March 2016. “This health center serves a community of 30,000 people…by addressing the need for free, basic primary care and lowering the barrier of access.” Since its launch four-and-a-half years ago, sixteen health care centers have been built. Six are currently under construction and eight are in the fundraising stage.

No Mom Left Behind

In addition to their main goal, the 30/30 Project launched its “No Mom Left Behind” campaign. The funds raised, build and maintain maternity wards in impoverished regions. Since 2017, they were able to build a new maternity ward and renovate a clinic in Togo, West Africa. For the 2019 fundraising year, donations will be used to construct a maternity ward in Kenya. It will offer HIV counseling, testing and medication, immunizations and family planning. The need for these services is high, as one in forty-two women die during childbirth. Sixty percent of women deliver their child at home, far from the helping hands of medical professionals. Construction on a nursing school in Uganda is already underway, with the hopes of training students to properly handle patients and any problems that may arise during childbirth.

As a family who has experienced the heartache associated with a loved one’s positive HIV diagnosis, the Lewises know how important it is to receive proper treatment. This is especially true for expectant mothers, who have a twenty-five percent chance of transmitting the disease to their baby. However, treatments could reduce that likelihood to less than two percent.

Ryan Lewis has made a splash in the music scene. Over the last five years, he has also made major strides in the world of philanthropy. Due to his generosity and perseverance, thousands of people in Africa and India are receiving life-saving treatments that they were previously unable to afford. With continued support, the 30/30 Project will help provide healthcare to many other underserved communities.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in KenyaKenya is one of the most populated nations in Africa with over 45 million people. While it is one of the top tourist spots with its various national parks and sights, Kenya is burdened by poor healthcare. College students and non-profit organizations are making strides to provide healthcare in Kenya by doing medical missions and providing citizens with top medical care from dental to pediatrics.

Facts about Healthcare in Kenya

Kenya faces many hardships including widespread poverty and a lack of access to healthcare. According to ChildFund International, over 35 million Kenyan citizens do not have health insurance, which means life expectancy for both men and women living in Kenya is 60-65 years old. In 2013, only 4.5 percent of Kenya’s GDP was spent on healthcare, which is quite low compared to other countries. With 19 million children under the age of 15, healthcare in Kenya cannot keep up with the growing population.

The top three causes of death in Kenya are: diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS and other noncommunicable diseases. Malaria is another big issue, causing around 4,000 deaths a year. Lack of access to healthcare paired with unsanitary living situations worsens these conditions.

One major cause of poor healthcare is not enough healthcare professionals, with only one nurse for every 1,000 patients. Most healthcare providers are centered in the wealthy parts of Kenya, instead of the poor ones where healthcare is needed most.

Another major concern for healthcare in Kenya is infant mortality rates. Infant mortality is 48 percent in Kenya, according to HERAF. This high number is caused from diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS as well as malnutrition.

What are People Doing to Help?

Paige Berkey, a Georgia Southern University nursing student, went to Nairobi, Kenya in 2018 to do medical missions for citizens suffering from poor healthcare due to poverty. Berkey went with an organization called International Medical Relief, a non-profit organization based in the United States where they bring medical assistants to over 57 impoverished countries each year. They set up free clinical sites in areas where a medical team was most needed to help with healthcare in Kenya.

The medical team consisted of a pediatrician, wound care, podiatrist, obgyn, mental health doctors, internist doctors, cardiologist, dentists and an eyeglass station. A pharmacy was also open, where patients could pick up prescriptions, as well as educate them on proper procedures while taking certain medications.

The team saw about 300 patients a day and saw a total of 1,377 patients over the course of their time in Kenya. Berkey mainly worked with the triage team, but also helped in the pharmacy and eyeglass station. “We would start with vital signs and then do a quick head to toe assessment and get their chief complaint and the history of the complaint,” Berkey said. “We would then decide which doctor to send to them.” Pediatrics was the most popular service that Berkey and her team provided. The pediatrician would have a wait of over two and a half hours every day and he was always the last one finished.

With help from organizations like International Medical Relief, Kenya is able to get better healthcare for its citizens, especially those who live in poverty.

– McKenzie Hamby
Photo: Google

In Kenya, around 1.6 million citizens are currently living with HIV, with around 910,000 of these being women aged 15 and over. Soteni International, a nonprofit organization based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, works within rural Kenya to fight HIV/AIDS. Executive Director Randie Marsh describes the goals of the organization as “to reduce the incidences of HIV/AIDS in rural Kenya and improve the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.”

Soteni International was founded in 2002 by a group of both American and African volunteers led by Dr. Victoria Wells Wulsin, a physician and epidemiologist. Marsh describes the early mission of the organization as being to “empower orphans of AIDS to lead the fight against AIDS and to prevent another generation from succumbing.”

Villages of Hope

The organization has now developed and works through the “model of Villages of Hope.” This includes doing everything in its power to build up specific communities so that they are sustainable for future HIV/AIDS-free generations. These villages are focused in three main regions in rural Kenya: Mbakalo, Ugunja and Mitunto.

Marsh told The Borgen Project that the organization chose to stay in rural areas because it “felt like there are many organizations working in Nairobi that address the HIV crisis there. These [three regions] are also areas where the communities have given us land to use to further our mission and/or support us in other ways.” Soteni has supported a number of projects in these communities that all work toward the overall betterment of the region.

Community Improvements

In 2009, Soteni worked with other organizations, including the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board, the Gender Sensitive Initiatives organization and the Kenyan Water Services Fund Trust, to bring safe drinking water to Mbakalo. The project included bringing the region 20 hand-pump wells and 20 springwater pipes. The local schools also received 15 three-door latrines and 12 rainwater harvesting tanks. In 2015, the organization also enacted the Improving Access to Family Planning Project in Ujunga to spread sexual health and family planning awareness and provide access to sexual reproductive health services.

Soteni opened a health center in Mbakalo in 2005 and has continued to improve it over the years. The center provides essential medical services through a seven-person staff. 200 to 300 citizens receive treatment here every month that includes antimalarials, antihistamines, antibiotics and some immunizations. The center has no electricity, but in 2008 Soteni installed a solar refrigerator for vaccines and medicines. Plans are currently underway to expand and upgrade the center.

International Cooperation

Soteni International requires leadership and cooperation in both the United States and Kenya to do its work. The organization has members and locations in both Cincinnati and Nairobi and members make trips back and forth annually. Supporters in the U.S. can donate time through volunteer work or make monetary and material donations.

According to Executive Director Marsh, “the heart of our organization are the people on the ground who work to support the mission.”  The organization and its community work are entirely grassroots, built from the ground up by people who saw a problem and wanted to be a part of the solution. Not only does its work better the lives of Kenyan citizens, but it also inspires citizens from the U.S. and around the globe.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

Aid in Kenya
On Oct. 19, USAID announced that it would award an additional $5 million to improve health care in Kenya. Where will that money go, and who will it help?

With a population of nearly 47 million, Kenya has the largest economy in Central and Eastern Africa. Its GDP per capita is $3,200 per year — not luxurious by any measure, but a leg above all its immediate neighbors. Its capital, Nairobi, is a regional hub for business, trade and commerce.

Yet only 5.7 percent of its expenditures are devoted to health care, the area where the funds are perhaps needed the most. The country suffers from high infant and mother mortality rates, a life expectancy of only 64 years, and a 1-in-20 percent chance of contracting AIDS. There are only two physicians per 10,000 people, and they are spread dishearteningly thin as they try to address the continuing HIV epidemic and widespread diseases.

Because Kenya has a better record of democracy and transparency than many developing African nations, and because the U.S. considers it, “an important developing country partner in east Africa,” it has become a significant target of U.S. foreign aid.

The State Department says that its objectives in Kenya are to “(1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade and investment; (3) advance peace and security and (4) promote opportunity and development.” In 2014, Kenya received $2.7 billion from the international community to help build infrastructure and encourage peaceful development.

Five million dollars may sound like a drop in the bucket compared to that sum, but these directly targeted funds will serve an important purpose. The funds will expand the work of an organization called Living Goods, which focuses on encouraging entrepreneurship in the health industry: it trains women in basic health procedures and recruits them to become small business owners. These women leverage their rich social networks to sell affordable, high-quality, life-saving products — such as simple treatments for common diseases — to families who would otherwise go without care.

When you live in developing countries like Kenya, even health care offered free by the government can come with a price. Sometimes it’s the literal price of commuting to the clinic; other times it’s the price of risk, the chance, in places as high as 50 percent, that the hospital will be out of the medicine your child needs.

Living Goods seeks to extend medical care to every community using a model that is both impactful and sustainable, and by doing so increase access to the most basic health supplies and expertise.

The $5 million from USAID is funded by the Development Innovation Ventures program, and it will help expand Living Goods’ community health care in Kenya. A recent independent study showed that the program had managed to reduce child deaths by 25 percent for less than $2 per person per year. Over the next decade, the organization plans to improve the health and lives of over 50 million people.

Madeleine Read

Photo: Flickr


I will never forget hearing the story about the woman in Kenya who ran away when a soldier pulled out a condom. She had heard a rumor that if someone tried to use a condom, it meant that they had HIV.

In Kenya, healthcare and education about sex and general health is limited. Moreover, the small amount of health and sex education that does exist is often misguided.

In the past ten years, three people that my family and I were close to died of HIV. All three of them were parents and the breadwinners of the family. On Monday, my mother called to inform me that yet another person that we know is ill, and may be dying of HIV.

According to USAID, around 1.6 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya. In addition, about 1.1 million children in Kenya are orphans because of AIDS.

People in Kenya with HIV/AIDS, and those at risk, often lack access to healthcare.

In Kenya, healthcare is a constitutional right, but the cost is too high for a majority of Kenyans. In addition to the cost, the closest healthcare facility is often way too far away for poor Kenyans to reach.

According to the World Bank, “only 20 percent of Kenyans have access to some sort of medical coverage.” In April 2014, the Kenyan government launched the Health Insurance Subsidy Program in order to make healthcare more affordable for people in Kenya. While this is a good first step, it does not help the many people who are unable to reach a healthcare facility.

An article by Allianz states that if poor Kenyans living in rural areas are able to seek healthcare, they are often only able to find treatment at a primary care facility. These facilities are often under-staffed and under-equipped, and have limited medicines. One of the three people in my life who died of HIV/AIDs died in a hospital due to HIV-related dehydration. It is possible that he could have been saved by something as simple as an IV if the doctors had known what to do.

Luckily, organizations like USAID and the World Bank are working on treating and preventing HIV/AIDS and giving Kenyans greater access to healthcare.

In 2003, USAID launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The program is focused on prevention, treatment and care. These programs have made steps in the past 12 years. For instance, mother-to-child transmission rates have dropped from 28.3% to 8.5%.

However, transmission rates are not the only numbers that have been dropping. Between 2010 and 2013, USAID’s funding to Kenya was cut in half.

HIV/AIDS is continuing to spread in Kenya, and the people who need aid the most are not receiving it. The United States could be doing much more to aid the poor in Kenya. So why is the government decreasing funding, rather than continuing the work that has just begun?

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: Allianz Worldwide Care, USAID, The World Bank
Photo: Zakat