Paying attention to the numbers
If you ever happen to be in Norfolk Island and have to write home and explain where you are, you would first have to talk about the mild subtropical climate. Temperature highs hover in the mid 200C and fall to a low of around 15-200C at night all year round. Quite nice. They drive on the left, just like in Kenya so driving and monitoring traffic is easy enough. The capital is called Kingston, though this is not the largest town, Burnt Pine is. From a social perspective, one thing that you quickly notice is how few people there are on Norfolk island; just 2,302 as per their 2011 census. But when you take into account how tiny the place is, just 34.6 km2, then naturally the small population makes sense. The inhabitants are Pitcairn Islanders, descendants of bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions. Of the total population, 978 work mainly in tourism. One hundred of them produce enough for everyone there to eat. One more interesting fact, according to official statistics, the death rate on Norfolk Island is minus 9/1,000 population. More than low.
One way to get back to Kenya from Norfolk Island is to take a Norfolk Air flight at Norfolk Island Airport for Brisbane Australia. From there you can cross Australia and then the Indian Ocean. Just like Norfolk Island, Kenya has some interesting statistics. Given the fact that we are still a relatively poor developing country, you would expect that all our health statistics are poor. A population of 1.5 million persons living with HIV/Aids puts us in the top four in the world. Only South Africa, Nigeria and India have more people living with the disease than Kenya. A birth rate of 2.44 per cent means that next month our population will hit 43,013,341 persons.
The population growth rate ranks Kenya fairly high (29th) among countries in the world. This high population growth rate means many babies - which naturally leads to a very young population. Some 42 per cent of the population is under 14 years of age. So much of the time when something needs to be said, we have to ask our primary school teachers to do the talking. These are the population and health statistics that we commonly talk about. But there are some surprisingly things about Kenya.
For one thing, despite our attempts otherwise, our death rate is relatively low. According to our census there are just 7.26 deaths per 1,000 population. This ranks Kenya at 122 worldwide. South Africa with a rate of 17.23 per 1,000 population has the highest death rate in the world, followed by Russia with 16.03 per 1,000 population. The reasons for the high death rate in those countries you can work out. For Kenya this rate of 7.26 means that this year 312, 277 people will die. Those are very many people, the equivalent of losing all the population in Nakuru town every year. In addition about 80,000 of these deaths will be due to HIV/Aids.
Clearly stopping new HIV/Aids infections and managing the disease in those who already have it is an obvious and clear strategy to preventing unnecessary deaths. The reason why Kenya’s crude death rate appears to be better than other countries is because the rate is significantly affected by the age distribution of the country. Remember we have a lot of young people between the age of 5-19 years and a very small percentage population over 65 years, (just 2.7 per cent). So we have a situation where many of the people dying do so in their productive years of 15-49 just after we as a country have invested in them in terms of education but before they have really worked to boost the wealth of their families and therefore the country.
At this point, the obvious solution might be to call for greater investment in health services both preventive and curative. But we have one curious fact, Kenya spends 12.2 per cent of GDP on health services. Not as good as Malta or USA at 16.5 per cent or 16.2 per cent of GDP respectively but in the top nine countries in the world. What that reflects is the inequality we have in terms of health expenditure. Much of this money is not being spent on improving the overall health of the people. Otherwise the statistics would match. The GDP of USA is $15.04 trillion so 16.2 per cent of that is a lot of money. Kenya’s GDP in 2011 is estimated at $70.85 billion not much in comparison.
If these are too many numbers you might consider escaping to Norfolk Island, it’s a small place and you are bound to know everyone. But if you choose to stay, advocate for more investment in healthcare. But just as important is to pay attention to make sure that it is spent efficiently. Because all the young people being born will enter into the age groups of death and Kenya will just not grow into a prosperous nation.