Neonatal mortality rate in Kenya shows no significant change in 8 years: Survey

Childhood and under-5 mortality rates, however, declined during the period, study finds

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 19 January 2023

Improvement of neonatal mortality rate in Kenya has not been significant, even as childhood and under-5 mortality rates declined steadily, a new study showed.

Neonatal mortality in the East African country declined to 21 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022 from 22 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014, according to the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2022) released January 17, 2023.

Childhood mortality declined steadily in Kenya since 2003, the report showed. Under-5 mortality (death of children under the age of five years) declined to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022 from 52 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014, it stated.

Children face the highest risk of death in the first 28 days — the neonatal period.

The leading probable causes of neonatal deaths among preterm or low birth weight infants were birth asphyxia, neonatal sepsis, respiratory distress and hypothermia, the researchers found. 

Lack of check-ups for pregnancy complications, unskilled antenatal care provision and lack of tetanus injection were associated with neonatal mortality in the country, it added. 

Tetanus toxoid injections are given during pregnancy to prevent neonatal tetanus, a major cause of early infant death in many countries. Neonatal tetanus is often caused by failure to observe hygienic procedures during delivery, the indicators report stated.

The report highlighted an evident gap in documentation of mortality and its causes among low birth weight and preterm neonates, owing to the country’s weak civil registration and vital statistics systems.

Among the possible causes of under-5 death rate decline were various targeted new public health initiatives and improved access to water and sanitation, the analysts wrote.

Increased ownership of insecticide-treated bed nets in endemic malaria zones resulted in 39 per cent of the decline in post-neonatal mortality and 58 per cent of the decline in infant mortality, an Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition (a statistical method) using demographic and health survey data showed.

Understanding causes of and circumstances preceding both preterm and low-birth-weight neonatal deaths is essential for accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 that aims to reduce neonatal mortality rates to 12 per 1,000 live births by 2030, the authors mentioned.

KDHS 2022 was implemented by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the health ministry and other stakeholders.

Data was collected from females aged 15-49 years and males aged 15-54 years during February 17-July 19, 2022.

This is the seventh demographic and health survey conducted in Kenya. The first was done in 1989.

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