Children in Kenya: Kenyans love children (watoto), who are highly valued as a continuation of their lineage, and until recently subscribed to the view that “the more you have, the better.” This view is fast disappearing, largely due to economic constraints.
Kenyans find the Western concept of “deciding not to have children” largely incomprehensible, and women who cannot or will not have children are either pitied or (in the more primitive rural communities) ostracized. Children are also expected to contribute to the social group by acting as goatherds, collecting fuel, cooking, and doing any number of other chores. In return, the responsibility for their upbringing becomes the responsibility of the group and, in the absence of “mother,” an army of elder siblings and “aunties” take over.
Life of Children in Kenya
The situation for the children of Kenya is of particular importance, because they make up an unusually large portion of the population.
Forty percent of Kenya’s population is aged under 14 years, while most Western or developed countries have less than 20% of their population in that age group.
The percentages are skewed somewhat by the low life expectancy in Kenya (due largely to the spread of HIV and AIDS), which leaves the country with a very small population of seniors. This also means many of Kenya’s children are orphans.
The Kenyan education system is similar to that in the USA, with 8 years at a primary level, 4 years of secondary education, and then the potential to continue with another 4 years of post-secondary schooling.
Though children can (and are meanwhile obliged) to attend primary school at no cost in Kenya, parents are expected to contribute towards the cost of running the school. This has led to a serious deterioration in the education infrastructure and teaching field, since many parents are too poor to pay.
Life can be difficult for children of Kenya due to poverty and unemployment. Families are often forced to take children out of school (even when fees are not the problem) because they are needed to earn money for the family.
With jobs scarce and low-paying, every member of the family must work, especially if the parents are unable to find work of their own. For families with their own farms, children may also be pulled from school because they are needed to help tend cattle or crops. With half of all rural Kenyans living in poverty, this is a constant struggle.
Children of Kenya who live in the cities aren’t always in a better situation compared to rural children. Abandoned or orphaned children are forced to live in the streets, and live a life of hunger, crime and sexual abuse.
As modern life changes the lifestyles of most Kenyans, those still living in rural areas often continue to follow the old ways of their tribe, particularly when it comes to coming-of-age rituals. The specific details of the rituals vary from tribe to tribe.
Critical Issues Affecting Children in Kenya
Laws and policies: In Kenya, national policies and legislation have been developed with key global priorities for children and women in mind. These include the Children Act that domesticates the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Free Primary Education that could enable the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on education. The key challenge for some of the laws and policies, however, is their interpretation and implementation.
Poverty: Despite the impressive economic growth in the last two years, Kenya is among the world’s 30 poorest countries, ranking 152 out of 177 countries on the 2006 Human Development Index. Inequalities are wide with the top 10 per cent of Kenyans earning 44 per cent of the national income, whilst the bottom 10 per cent earns less than one per cent. Kenya’s poorest regions, including North Eastern Province, have twice the relative poverty headcount of its least poor regions. Years of drought in this region have had a serious impact on the well-being of children, increasing malnutrition rates, morbidity and mortality.
Child survival: The 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health survey showed deterioration in almost all health indicators. Under five mortality rates (U5MR) had risen from from110 to 115 per 1,000 live births over the previous four to five years. The same survey exposed major disparities across the country — with U5MR ranging from 54 per 1,000 live births in Central Province to 163 per 1,000 in North Eastern Province and 206 per 1,000 in Nyanza Province. Separate surveys also show high under five mortality rates in the informal settlements of Nairobi, rising to 245 per 1,000 live births in Embakasi and 186 in Kibera informal settlements.
Malnutrition continues to threaten a significant proportion of Kenyan children and women. The most recent countrywide data from 2005/06 shows that 33 per cent of children are stunted, six per cent are wasted and 20 per cent are underweight. National immunization coverage is at 76 per cent, far below the recommended 85 per cent. Wide disparities in immunization rates exist. In the drought-prone North Eastern Province, for example, where access to health facilities is poor, measles vaccination coverage is only 37 per cent.
Access to safe water and sanitation facilities is also limited. More than 15 million people – including more than half the rural population – are without access to safe water or sanitation facilities.
While malaria continues to be the biggest killer of children in Kenya, there was a 44 per cent in under-five deaths from malaria in the malaria endemic areas. This was achieved through effective treatment following a change in the drug policy from SP to combination therapy, the distribution of over 12 million insecticide-treated bed nets, and the use of preventive malaria treatment during pregnancy. Between 2002 and 2006 the percentage of children under five sleeping under a treated net increased from just four to 52, while access to prompt and effective treatment rose from four per cent to 16 per cent.
HIV and AIDS: Life expectancy has reduced drastically from 63 in 1990 to 44 as a result of the impact of HIV and AIDs. However, prevalence rates have reduced significantly from 13.6 in 1997 to just under six per cent in 2006. The decline is attributed to several factors, including increased awareness and use of condoms, availability of anti-retroviral treatment and scale-up of prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Approximately 1.3 million Kenyans are currently living with HIV, including about 156,000 children. Despite rapidly expanded access to treatment in recent years, an estimated 140,000 adults still die annually due to AIDS-related illnesses. Out of an estimated 2.4 million orphans and vulnerable children in need of care and support, about 1.2 million are believed to be due to rising AIDS mortality. Latest estimates of incidence put the number of new HIV infections in the country between 236 and 397 per day.
Education: Kenya introduced Free Primary Education in 2003, enabling many more children to enjoy their right to education. In 2008, the Government started meeting the tuition costs for secondary education. With a net enrolment rate of 86 per cent, Kenya is well on track to achieve the Millennium Declaration Goal of basic education for all children by 2015. However, 1.2 million children of school-going age are still not attending school in spite of the free education. And while gender parity has been virtually achieved at the national level, sharp regional disparities remain with about 80 per cent of girls in North Eastern Province not enrolled in school.
Child protection: Despite the existence of progressive laws to protect children, the level of violence against and abuse and exploitation of children is still high. An estimated 10,000 to 30,000 children have been caught up in commercial sex trade, mainly in the coastal towns.
Emergency: The humanitarian crisis in the country, following the displacement of more than 350,000 people in the post election violence has increased the vulnerability of affected children and their families. The violence has disrupted the children’s access to services such as health and education. Displaced children, especially those living in the camps for internally displaced people, are at risk of abuse and exploitation. The living conditions in the camps also expose the children, especially those under five years to malaria, cholera and other diseases.
UNICEF is working with the Government of Kenya and other development partners to leverage resources to ensure women and children have access to and utilize services that will advance their rights and to influence legal and policy reform.
Children Justice in Kenya
Experts believe that juvenile justice in Kenya is still one of the main problems the government needs to address, as ill-treatment in prison is in violation of child and youth rights.
Verbal and physical abuse from the community and the police are some of the most common problems the street children face every day.
The police make arbitrary arrests of children for various reasons: loitering, carrying illegal weapons, refusing to give in to sexual demands, or being rude to police officers.
Once in police custody, the harassment of these children continues and sometimes worsens. Abuse ranges from being insulted, beaten, kicked, and detained, to sexual abuse and rape.
“The detention centre is often so crowded that there is no separate cell for adults and children. The food they give is not enough or dirty. And there is only one bucket as a toilet for everybody,” said Ndegwa.
Omondy was arrested by the police for the possession of a pen knife.
“At the police station I was beaten so many times. I was forced to make a false statement for a crime I didn’t do. There was no mattress or blanket to sleep on. I slept on the cold floor in my t-shirt and my shorts only. We were not allowed to go to the toilet, there was only one bucket for everybody if we need to go to toilet,” he told IRIN.
“I’m scared of the police because I’ve heard many children have gone through very bad experiences while they were in detention,” he added.
Children are held in detention in remand homes or detention centres before receiving a trial. If they are subsequently found guilty they are sent to rehabilitation schools, for children who are under 15, or to borstal or prison if they are above 15-years-old.
“Conditions at the remand homes or at the approved schools are sometimes as bad as in police cells. But at the prison or borstal the situation is far worse. In some cases, children are put together in the adult prison due to lack of space, or because they were assumed to be adults by the judge,” said Ndegwa.
“There are reports of children being handcuffed to beds, stripped naked and beaten. Sometimes children are not allowed to eat, or their food is withheld as a form of punishment. They are often subject to sex abuse or sodomy by the guards or older youth,” she added.
Children Participation in Kenya
Structures have been created to empower children in their families, schools, communities and nationally. This is done through ChiIdren’s Voices, a national programme that allows children to air their views on matters that affect them.
The department, on recommendations from the UN Convention on Rights of Children, is working on a document to be used in educating opinion leaders and other stakeholders on the need to listen to children.
Children Volunteer Services
Volunteer officers are recruted to help provide services to children. The Kenya Volunteers Children’s
Services Officer system was introduced under the Kenya-]apan collaboration for improvement of juvenile justice. The concept was first introduced in Trans Nzoia and Kisumu districts as well as Dagoretti Division in Nairobi before it rolled out countrywide.
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The volunteers are recruited by the Director of Children’s Services on the recommendation of local advisory
councils. They complement the work of children’s officers.
Volunteer officers ensure that the rights of children are protected, guide children in need ofcare and protection and rehabilitate and reintegrate child offenders into the community. They also promote collaboration with partners and stakeholders on children’s issues in the provision of services and act as secretaries to the locational area advisory council. Volunteer are dismissed if they contravene the code ofconduct or commit criminal offences.
National Council for ChiIdren’s Services in Kenya
National Council for ChiIdren’s Services is charged with securing the well being of children and oversees and policy direction on children’s affairs It approves registration of charitable children’s institutions, mobilises resources for children’s activities and formulates policies and guidelines for the benefit ofthe child.
Way forward for Children in Kenya
The department plans to: Speed up the implementation of children’s rights
- Train people to deal with data collection and entry
- Strengthen donor-coordination, monitoring and evaluation, especially of children’s institutions.
- Train officers, including volunteers, area advisory councils and officials in Government institutions dealing with children
- Seek to stop new media that offer pornographic material from negatively influencing children.
Children Organizations in Kenya
Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children (KAACR)
PO Box 73637
Tel: +254 2 445 0256/7
Fax: +254 2 445 0092
AMURT – Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team
AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team) is one of the few private international voluntary organizations founded in India. Since its inception in 1965 its original objective was to help meet the needs of the affected population after disasters that regularly hit the Indian sub-continent. Over the years AMURT has established teams in thirty-four countries, to create a network that can meet disaster and development needs almost anywhere in the world. In 1985 we broadened our goals to include long-term development. We feel that we can play a useful role in helping vulnerable communities break the cycle of poverty and gain greater control over their lives. For us, development is human exchange: people sharing wisdom, knowledge and experience to build a better world.
Ms. 2 & 3, Adj. Wood Avenue Apartments,
Wood Avenue, Kilimani
Nairobi P.O BOX 10101 – 00100 Kenya
The CRADLE-The Children Foundation
Ms. 2 & 3, Adj. Wood Avenue Apartments,
Wood Avenue, Kilimani
P.O. Box 10101-00100
Tel. +254 2 3874575
Cellphone: +254 722 201805 / +254 734 798199
Fax: +254 2 2710156
The CRADLE maintains satellite offices outside Nairobi as follows:
The CRADLE Satellite Office – Kisumu
Sifa House- Kibuye, 2nd Floor
P.O. Box 345-40100, Kisumu
Phone: +254 725 34 85 47
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
The CRADLE Satellite Office – Suba
Off Homabay – Mbita Main Road
Near Victoria Filling Station
Contact: Madam Ondari, paralegal or Kisumu officer
Phone: 0725 30 83 69
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The CRADLE Child Help Desk – Malindi
Malindi Child Protection Centre
Adj: Malindi Juvenile Remand Home/opposite Modern Coast Bus
Contact: Prudence Mutiso, Legal Officer
Phone: 0202 13 30 98
The CRADLE Child Help Desk – Mombasa
4th Floor NSSF Building
Contact: Salem Lorot, Legal Officer
Phone: 0202 13 31 02
The CRADLE Child Help Desk – Eldoret
Eldoret Law Courts
Contact: Johna K. Kirwa, Legal Officer
Phone: 0203 50 03 43
The CRADLE Child Help Desk – Kwale/Msambweni
Contact: Harun Omariba, Legal Officer
The CRADLE Child Help Desk – Lodwar/Turkana
Contact: Esther Kimani, Legal Officer
Contact: Lovender Otiende, Counselor
ICRI International Headquarters
125 University Avenue
2nd Floor, Southwest Suite
Berkeley, CA 94710
View Yahoo Map
Phone: (510) 644-1000
Fax: (510) 644-1115
Ken Jaffe, President and Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellie Mashhour, Chief Operations Officer email@example.com
Janet Massite, Finance Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Ambri Pukhraj, Program and Operations Manager email@example.com
ICRI Africa (Kenya)
P. O. Box 27075-00100
Leonard Chuomo Falex, Program Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenya Children of Hope
House No. 149 Golf Course , Mosiro Court, Mosiro Road,
Phone: +254 72590011
Child Aid Organization Kenya
Child Aid Organization Kenya is registered as not for profit, non governmental organization in Kenya since 2008. It operates on a national level in the area of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention (CSA), Human Rights Training and Advocacy work. The purpose of the organization is to prevent/stop the sexual abuse of children in its entire forms: reduce societal tolerance of the sexual exploitation of children; prevent entry of children into exploitation in all its forms; effectively advocate for the creation of strong, enforceable legislative environments to protect children from sexual exploitation; and ensure that children who are sexually exploited have access to a range of services that enhances their safety and well – being and supports exit from sexual exploitation.
P.O. Box 483 Nairobi 00518 Kenya
ANPPCAN Kenya Chapter is the Kenyan National chapter of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, a pan-African child rights organization with chapters in seventeen African countries. It is a charitable, not for profit organization and was registered as a Non-Governmental Organization in 1995. Like the other ANPPCAN chapters, ANPPCAN Kenya operates as a national resource centre on child abuse and neglect and children’s rights. We provide information and technical expertise on child protection and child rights issues, carry out research on emerging children’s issues and lobby governments, donors, other NGOs and communities on behalf of children.
ANPPCAN Kenya Chapter,
Chemusian Apartments, No B3,
Argwings Kodhek Road, Hurlingham,
P.O. Box 46516, 00100-GPO, Nairobi , Kenya
Plan International Inc.
Kenya Country Office
Oloitokitok Road, Lavington
Methodist Ministries Centre, Block C, Ground Floor
P.O. Box 25196, Lavington 00603
Office Tel:+254(0) 20 2761000 (Main line), +254(0) 20 2447422 / 33 (Wireless), +254(0) 722 201 293 / 734 600 774 (Mobile)