Deaths from malaria rose last year for the first time in more than a decade as HIV/Aids fatalities continue to drop on increased use of ARV drugs.
Official data shows deaths from malaria rose 9.7 per cent to 17,553 as those from HIV dropped to 8,758, from 9,471 in 2016 and 12,235 in 2014.
This came as Kenya reported fewer deaths for the second year in a row as the incidence of diseases dropped to 42.3 million last year from 50.7 million in 2016 amid increased awareness and health investments — which has nearly doubled over the past five years.
Pneumonia remained the biggest killer of Kenyans as cancer deaths continue to rise, posing a public health crisis for a country that is yet to invest in personnel and equipment to tackle the deadly disease.
“Pneumonia, malaria, cancer, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis remained leading causes of death in 2017,” said the report prepared by the Kenya National Bureau of Standards (KNBS).
Pneumonia registered 21,584 deaths, accounting for 22 per cent of the major causes of death in the country. Deaths by cancer rose 1,191 to 16,953 compared to the 15,762 recorded a year earlier.
Cancer patients in Kenya have had to travel to India to access treatment owing to the few radiotherapy machines available at Kenyatta National Hospital.
Long queues at the KNH are a common feature because the facility has only three functional radiotherapy machines.
Increased awareness on healthy living like exercising and good diet could have led to reduced deaths from heart diseases, which dropped by 576 to 4,786 last year.