Most Murang’a families struggle with debt, have no savings as family units change

Family is the fundamental unit holding society together and Murang'a isn't doing very well.

In Summary

• Only about 56 per cent of residents have in any form of employment and most report they struggle to raise their children.

• National Council for Population and Development said his is the fist study of its kind aimed at establishing the current situation of families in the county.

Many widows are young, but poverty increases as deceased husbands' families forbid them from remarrying
HARD LIFE: Many widows are young, but poverty increases as deceased husbands' families forbid them from remarrying
Image: FILE:


The majority of families in Murang’a county rely heavily on debts to support themselves and have no savings.

A study by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) indicates 55.8 per cent of families are not saving at all and that one out of 10 families has accumulated huge debts.

The study conducted in May and June last year further showed that only about 56 per cent of locals are in any form of employment while six per cent indicated they were not seeking employment despite being jobless.

About 50.4 per cent of the families are uncomfortable with their financial situation and 39 percent indicated they would need more than Sh50,000 to support themselves.

The situation is further worsened by the fact that about 45 per cent of the families have a member living with a chronic or terminal illness especially those in urban areas, with the most prevalent condition being diabetes.

Sixty-five percent of those with chronic illness find it difficult engaging in economic activities. In addition, 45 percent of the families are not able to adequately provide special needs for the sick family members of the family.

Murang'a isn't alone.

Multidimensional poverty that takes into account other dimensions such as nutrition, education, information, water, sanitation and housing, was estimated to be about 43 percent.

This was the highest multidimensional poverty incidence level in the Central region, with Kirinyaga coming second with 36.2 per cent, Nyandarua 32 per cent, Nyeri 31.9 per cent and Kiambu 18.1 percent.

This resulted in conflicts between spouses in 55.9 per cent of families while conflict between children and parents was at 23 per cent.

Domestic violence was reported in some of the families, with four per cent reporting physical violence while six per cent had psychological violence for the period of 12 months before the survey date.

Financial instability was also attributed to the shrinking and changing family structure as the average household size is 3.3 persons per household.

Thirty seven per cent of households had a household size of two to three members with 27 per cent of households being-single person households.

The study also found that 62 percent of families are nuclear families, followed by extended families at 19 per cent and single parents at 18.6 per cent.

“It was reported that the single parent-type of family, mostly single motherS, was either by choice or due to unplanned pregnancy. However, there were those who were single fathers and mothers because they were either separated or widowed," the report said.

The county has 316,382 households and a population of 1,056,609 persons, consisting of 523,940 males and 532,669 females, with a growth rate of 0.4 per cent per annum, according to the 2019 Population and Housing Census.

NCPD director general Mohamed Sheikh, the study aimed at establishing the current situation of families in the county.

“We wanted to establish the well-being and stability of families living in a conventional household. 

He noted that alcoholism was a major challenge in most homesteads with 42 percent reporting having members who took alcohol compared to the 27 percent who consume tobacco.

This, he said, has affected the well-being and stability of many families as it pushes them further into poverty and causes conflicts and even separation.

Land disputes were reported in 11 per cent of the homesteads with the majority of the families, about 70 percent, using Nyumba Kumi as the main dispute resolution mechanism in rural Murang'a while most urban residents prefer using the local administration.

Further, about 27 per cent of families find it difficult to access a health facility while 63 per cent of the families have no access to health insurance.

Some families, about 40 per cent, rarely take part in leisure activities together, while only 34.7 per cent reported their family members often share their thoughts with each other.

“Regarding family consultation in decision making, 35 percent of respondents indicated that family members always consulted each other before making decisions, while 42 per cent communicate with each other frequently,” the report read.

Most of the parents, 92 per cent, confirmed they are able to express love to children under their care and are able to perceive their unhappiness.

Over half of the parents strongly agreed that having children is personally better for them than they thought it would be.

About 28 per cent, however, said having children has interfered with their private life and another 62.9 percent did not desire to have more children due to the tough economic times. Most reported they struggled to raise their children.

The study found that 76 per cent of families converge in places of worship every week while five percent never go to places of worship.

The report recommended that all stakeholders, including the government, the church, community leaders and the community should promote the family well-being by integrating social programmes to strengthen family bonds.

Murang’a Governor Irungu Kang’ata said his administration is implementing programmes aimed at resolving some of the challenges reported.

He cited the Kang’ata Care programme that has provided more than over 20,000 destitute families with free NHIF cover that enables them to access quality health care.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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