On August 10th, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), UNICEF Kenya, and UN WOMEN Kenya launched the Comprehensive Poverty Analysis report along with 47 county poverty profiles. 

The publications mark nearly two years of analysis and extensive consultations with a myriad of national stakeholders including the President’s Office, State Department for Gender, National Social Protection Secretariat, National Commission for Gender Equality, National Commission for Human Rights, National Treasury and Planning, line ministries, and Women’s Empowerment Center. The Social Policy Research Institute (SPRI Global) contributed technical support in carrying out the comprehensive poverty analysis in Kenya and in 47 counties.

This report is the first attempt in Kenya to measure poverty in a comprehensive manner, including multidimensional and monetary approaches, for different population groups: children, youth, women, men and the elderly, using the 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey. The study unpacks the situation of poverty for these groups through the lenses of: 1) Monetary poverty measurement, 2) Multidimensional poverty measurement, 3) Poverty overlap analysis, specifically the extent to which multidimensional and monetary poverty overlap, and 4) An exploration of the factors associated with monetary and multidimensional poverty.

Monetary and multidimensional poverty, as well as the overlap between both types of poverty, were measured for all age groups in Kenya: children under 18, youths age 18-34 years [national definition], adult women and men age 35-59 years, and elderly age 60 years and over. The results are available at the national and county level. For the monetary poverty measurement, the study applied the 2015-16 national poverty line[1] and for multidimensional poverty measurement and poverty overlap analysis the study applied the UNICEF MODA[2] toolkit. Factors associated with poverty were identified using logistic regression analysis.

Why is this study important?

Globally, poverty measurement has, in the past, primarily used income or expenditure for the identification of the poor. This understanding has however evolved over the years as studies have shown that monetary poverty does not capture all deprivations that individuals face with access to basic goods and services due to factors other than lack of financial resources. Therefore, monetary and non-monetary poverty approaches are vital for better informed policy decision making. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly include a target on reducing multidimensional poverty. It is within this framework of understanding and against the backdrop of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that this report makes a first official attempt to compare multidimensional and monetary poverty across different age groups and assess to what extent they are associated.

With this study Kenya closes the loop of evidence-generation to measure the country’s progress in achieving SDG target 1.2. “By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions”. More importantly, the 47 counties now have evidence on poverty and deprivation of basic needs and services in their areas and can make informed decisions. The central level institutions have evidence on geographical inequalities in well-being for different population groups and can better plan resource allocation to reduce them. Analysis of poverty overlap and of key drivers of poverty and deprivation among children, youth and women shed light onto the mix of sectoral interventions that are required to tackle poverty effectively.

The most relevant findings for child poverty in particular include:

  • 1 million or 52% of children under 18 in Kenya are multidimensionally poor, deprived of their fulfillment of between 3 and 7 basic needs and rights.
  • 7 million or 42% of children under 18 live in monetarily poor households.
  • Children comprise more than half of the monetarily poor population (55%) and nearly half (48%) of the multidimensionally poor population.
  • Deprivation in nutrition, housing and sanitation are the key drivers of multidimensional poverty among children of all ages in Kenya.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 children live in households lacking the minimum of nationally agreed financial resources and are deprived of a minimum of 3 or more basic needs and services.
  • 23% of children are multidimensionally poor even though they live in households that are not monetarily poor, indicating that there are issues with service accessibility, affordability, and availability.
  • Orphans, children with disability, children in rural areas, and those who have more siblings are more likely to be multidimensionally poor.
  • Children residing in communities that do not have access to basic services like healthcare – in terms of distance – are more likely to be multidimensionally poor
  • Children residing in areas that experience climatic shocks are more likely to be multidimensionally poor.
  • Children whose mothers have completed secondary or higher education and whose mothers are employed are less likely to be multidimensionally and monetarily poor.

The full range of findings of the comprehensive poverty analysis of children, the youth, women, men and the elderly can be accessed by downloading the full report.

How is this evidence relevant in the light of the pandemic?

Evidence from the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the poorest and most vulnerable populations are the groups that are most affected by both the direct effects of the pandemic on human health and health service systems, as well as by government measures in response to the pandemic.

This study highlights critical vulnerabilities and gaps of access to essential services specific to children, the youth, women, men and the elderly, which may be exacerbated by both the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic. Addressing these gaps will be critical in protecting these groups from the worst effects of the pandemic, and from potential reversal of progress made in poverty alleviation due to pandemic-related social and economic fallout in the country.

Alongside the effects of the pandemic, Kenya has also recently confronted the devastating effects of environmental, climate and food insecurity-related shocks, including flooding and locust infestation. Building resilient and adaptive protective systems and policies will be instrumental in managing both ongoing and future shocks, while protecting Kenya’s most vulnerable populations. This study provides an evidence base, as well as policy options and recommendations, for the priority actions needed to protect and alleviate hardship for Kenya’s most vulnerable populations.

By Erëblina Elezaj and Julia Karpati, SPRI Global social policy and social protection experts.

[1] KShs 2,252 monthly per adult equivalent in rural areas and KShs 5,995 per adult equivalent in urban areas. KNBS, Basic Report on Well-being in Kenya, 2018: http://statistics.knbs.or.ke/nada/index.php/catalog/88/download/744

[2] De Neubourg, Chai, de Milliano & Plavgo, Step-by-step Guidelines to the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis MODA, 2012. UNICEF Office of Research: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/695-step-by-step-guidelines-to-the-multiple-overlapping-deprivation-analysis-moda.html