Learn more about specific causes in Kenya that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentKenya’s environment is varied, with differing ecosystems throughout the country. Only 8% of Kenya’s land is arable due to its arid and semi-arid regions. However, a large percentage of the population works in agriculture. Environmental issues include soil erosion, deforestation, water pollution, and desertification. Kenya is characterized by drought, especially the severe drought beginning in 2006 which endangered nearly 3.5 million citizens’ ability to survive. Environmental issues are caused by more than mere weather concerns, however. Pesticide use by farmers has corrupted water sources and many unsustainable farming methods threaten the environment’s future.1 Deforestation brings about soil erosion, which affects both people’s livelihoods and the habitats of local fauna.2 Animals are also affected by nomadic tribes becoming more stationary, impeding on land they did not Read More used to stay in.3 Air pollution and water pollution in urban centers are also problematic environmental concerns.4 Show Less
FamilyThe Kenyan family faces several difficulties. One is early marriage, which is common for women before the age of 18. Many young women already have children by 18. Such young brides face health difficulties such as high risk births and high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Poor, rural women tend to have babies at the youngest ages, increasing pressure on poor families. Family planning remains inaccessible for many women, especially the poor. One out of four married women, aged 15 to 49, wishes to delay her next pregnancy, but does not have access to contraception.1 Thus, unplanned pregnancies occur in most families. Divorce in Kenya can only be achieved by proving a breach of marital fidelity or cruelty within the marriage.2 Some wish to Read More broaden the criteria for divorce. Additionally, widows face hardship in Kenya, as they are often left with few rights after their husband dies. They do not receive an inheritance from their husband, and often do not have the means to economically support themselves and their families after their husband passes away.3 Approximately 6% of girls in Kenya are married by age 15, and 26% are married by age 18.4 Show Less
Human RightsThe Kenyan government allows for a corrupt police force, abuses by the armed forces (including rape, torture, and killings), and the restriction of freedom of speech, press, and assembly. The judicial system fails to prosecute abusive government officials. In the first eight months of 2016, 78 extrajudicial executions were committed.1 The rights of prisoners are limited, with poor medical care and difficult living conditions within the prisons. Somali refugees have also experienced inhumane conditions in Kenya. Reports have stated that police have taken over refugee camps, making arrests and seeking out bribes, as well as raping refugee women and looting shops.2 Earlier this year, Kenya proposed a plan to shut down the Dadaab refugee camp that was holding about 280,000 refugees, citing the responsibility of Read More the international community to help with the refugee crisis. Property rights are not acknowledged; the government seizes land from homeowners in order to complete infrastructure projects such as roads.3 Reporting sexual violence or domestic abuse to authorities often results in disbelief, further abuse, or cruelty, and society does not accept open discussion of sexual crime.4 Show Less
EducationEducation in Kenya is free, but there are still expenses involved in attending class, which deters a large portion of families from sending their children to school. Additionally, many girls’ experience of sexual abuse, early marriage, or pregnancy prevents them from beginning or completing their education. The system also displays high dropout rates, and low teacher retention. Teachers are largely not trained, and many classrooms are far larger than standards should allow.1 There is a discrepancy between male and female education. The literacy rate among men is 81%, compared to 75% in women.2
PovertyKenya is one of the world’s poorest countries. Projections indicate that the poverty rate is between 34 and 42 percent, but data is uncertain because there has not been a household survey since 2012.1 Regional disparities in income remain, with rural areas experiencing a much higher poverty rate, a higher infant mortality rate, and a lower education rate than some urban areas.2 Poverty in Kenya is often rural, linked with agricultural difficulties and ecological degradation.3 Climate change threatens to increase such concerns. Additionally, poverty is often linked to lack of education and large households.4 Access to sanitation and clean water remains poor for Kenya’s rural populations, with access to improved sanitation facilities at only 30% and access to clean water at 57%.5
ReligionKenya's religious demographic is predominantly Christian, with Christian groups making up 83% of the population. Muslims make up about 11% of the population and other religious groups make 3% of the population.1 While in the past Kenya has experienced general religious harmony, tensions have arisen in recent years between Muslim and Christian groups, particularly in Kenya’s coastal region. The violence is instigated by different groups, including al-Shabaab militants, Christian mobs, and Kenyan military.2
Clean WaterOnly 63% of Kenya’s population has access to improved water sources.1 Droughts and poor infrastructure, along with water contamination, limit the water that is available. Water shortages have caused many health issues. The available water is polluted, and breeds viruses, parasites, typhoid, and cholera. The lack of clean water is especially problematic for hospitals. Largely contributing to the water issues are Kenya’s environmental challenges, including drought, which have caused hunger and economic difficulty in the largely agricultural country.2 Additionally, Kenya’s water shortage means that a majority of the country’s women and girls spend one third of their day fetching water, exposing them to a higher risk of waterborne diseases and from attacks and violence.3
EconomyKenya’s GDP is growing at a rate of about 5.5%.1 Low inflation and a reduction of debt also point to Kenya’s improving economy. Despite these positive indicators, Kenya is underperforming, and its growth rate is lower than other East African and sub-Saharan African nations.2 The poverty rate is currently estimated to be at 43% and the unemployment rate is at 40%. 35% of the GDP comes from agricultural income. The service sector accounts for 47.3% of GDP, and industry 6.7%. Kenya’s main export partners are Uganda, Tanzania, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.3
GovernmentThe Republic of Kenya has been an independent nation since 1963. The constitution for the presidential republic was re-drafted in 2010, creating a role of president as the head of state. The law allows indigenous groups to follow traditions of divorce or marriage and Islamic courts to settle Muslim issues.1 Kenya’s government is highly corrupt. There have been numerous scandals and reports of corruption from all levels of government, such as over $46 million stolen from the Ministry of Education.2 Transparency International ranks Kenya 145th out of 176 countries for perceived corruption, and its own citizens score their elected officials at 26 of 100.3 There is an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) that conducted an internal investigation and found that nearly $6 billion, 30% of Read More Kenya’s GDP, is lost to corruption annually.4 Show Less
HealthKenya’s health care system is in crisis. There is little local care and the average life expectancy is 67 years of age. The death rate from HIV/AIDS dropped by 61.5%, and is no longer the leading cause of death in the country; it now is second to diarrhoeal diseases. HIV/AIDS does, however, continue to be the leading cause of premature death.1 Over one million children have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS and 200,000 children are afflicted with the disease.2 The mortality rate is high for young children and infants, and 11% of children under 5 are underweight.3 The maternal mortality rate is the nineteenth highest in the world; 510 deaths per 100,000 live births. Infant mortality is 37.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.4
ChildrenAs of 2017, there were 489,250 refugees living in Kenya.1 Refugee children in this population experience frequent discrimination and are at risk of sexual violence due to their highly vulnerable social status.2 Children with disabilities do not have access to proper care in Kenya. One of the most extreme dangers facing Kenya’s female children is female genital mutilation. Although illegal, the practice is ingrained in the culture and difficult to eradicate. 3 Child marriage is also common for girls, with a 23% of Kenyan girls married before age 18.4 Kenya’s infant mortality rate is 37 deaths for every 1,000 live births.5 There is a youth policy, but it has not been updated since 2012.6
AnimalsKenya’s coast is part of the Coastal East Africa ecosystem. This region is home to savanna African elephants, as well as wild dogs, rhinos, and five species of marine turtles. Elephants are a source of fear and frustration for local communities due to their affinity for invading farmland to graze on crops, greatly hurting the profitability of that year’s harvest. The World Wildlife Fund is working to improve the fishing and farming methods used by coastal farmers to create a more sustainable system. Unregulated or illegal fishing, along with deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade has created major threats to the wellbeing of local animal species.1
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