Poverty & Healthcare

Medical care

Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital acts as the main referral and teaching centre for medical treatment, with other provincial hospitals taking referrals from their districts.

In rural areas, services are provided by health centres and dispensing clinics, though these often lack facilities and trained staff.

With many health professionals leaving Kenya to find posts abroad, there is a severe shortage of medical workers across the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Kenya has just one doctor and only 12 nurses/midwives for every 10,000 people.


PovertyIn this video… No clean water, no sanitation and the constant threat of disease - one woman talks about what life is like for her and her child living in one of Africa’s largest slums, Kibera

Because medicines are not available free, poor families often go without treatment when they are ill.

Major diseases

With its many water sources, Kenya has a high rate of water-borne and mosquito-carried diseases. Malaria strikes over 8 million people each year. Other diseases such as schistosomiasis - see Diseases in Health, Rift Valley fever and Chikungunya (similar to Dengue fever) are also a problem.

However, the leading cause of mortality among Kenyans is HIV/AIDS, which kills around 80,000 people each year. The disease has left an estimated 1.2 million children without one or both parents.

With higher awareness of HIV/AIDS, the epidemic has stabilised in Kenya, with around 6% of adults infected in 2009 (compared to 8% in 2001).

Today, around 1.5 million Kenyans live with HIV, though more than half are not receiving anti-retroviral therapy (according to the WHO 2010 guidelines for treatment).

Medical centre

Medical CentreIn this video... One mother is glad to visit a free medical centre when her child has a cut foot. Like many poor Kenyans, she does not have the money to afford healthcare or medicines.

Childhood health affects adulthood

With high unemployment, the number of Kenyans living in poverty is rising and some 4 million now rely on food aid.

Around a third of children under five are stunted, with more than 15% underweight.

Common diseases also take their toll on the health of children, lowering their ability to do well in school and make a living later on.

One recent trial in Kenya showed that children who received de-worming pills for two years, giving a boost to their levels of nutrition, had higher earnings as adults.