Kenya’s poor ranking in this year’s global report on human development has turned the spotlight on the effectiveness of measures aimed at alleviating poverty and improving the welfare of citizens.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) report released on Thursday placed Kenya at position 143 out of 187 countries polled worldwide.
UNDP resident co-ordinator Aeneas Chuma yesterday said that although Kenya had made huge strides in boosting access to education and healthcare through initiatives like vaccination and ante-natal care, it still lagged behind in key areas such as expansion of clean energy, political inclusion and environmental conservation.
“In terms of education and health, Kenya has done well but other areas need major improvement,” Mr Chuma told a forum in Nairobi to mark the launch of the report in Kenya.
The Human Development Report for 2011 shows that Kenya’s progress on economic and social welfare, wealth distribution and sustainability of preferred lifestyles had stalled. Kenya was ranked at position 144 in last year’s index.
Partnerships between government and the private sector have achieved massive results in the health sector with most initiatives being targeted at gender issues and reproductive health.
“In many cases partnerships across different groups and with a range of service providers have brought gains,” UNDP said in an assessment of healthcare in Kenya, noting the giving of vouchers to poor families in three rural districts and two urban slums.
The launch of the universal free primary education (FPE) by President Kibaki nine years ago has seen millions of poor children return to the classroom for basic formal education. Thousands others have also witnessed improved access to tertiary training, thanks bursary programmes both by government and devolved kitties such as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
However, inequitable land distribution, environmental degradation and underdeveloped clean and renewable energy remain major setbacks to Kenya’s development credentials.
“Competition over land contributed to post-election violence in Kenya in 2008,” UNDP said.
The agency said climate change and limited natural resources have been linked to an increased likelihood of conflict, which is one of the biggest threats to human development.
“They may also undermine the prospects for peace. Most resource-related conflicts are domestic, but increasing scarcity of land, water and energy could spark international strife,” the report said. Pastoralist communities especially in northern Kenya have experienced conflict triggered by competition for water and grazing land for their animals. Pasture land in these areas have also been affected by climate change.
“Kenya has good natural resources through which it can expand energy consumption without polluting the environment,” Geert Aagaard Andersen, the Danish ambassador to Kenya said at the launch of the report.
Planning assistant minister Peter Kenneth said poor implementation of projects was affecting development goals.
“We need to pursue a few well-funded but high impact projects than take up too many projects that we can’t deliver,” he told the gathering.
“Lack of realignment of funds to key projects is our main undoing as a country.