Kenya's Transformation through Devolution: A Brighter Future for All

August 21, 2023

Devolution has not only elevated the overall quality of life for Kenyan citizens but has also ushered in significant improvements for the most vulnerable sectors, including children.

In a span of ten years, Kenya has undergone a remarkable transformation with the adoption of an innovative approach known as “devolution.” This shift has brought decision-making closer to the people, resulting in improved access to important services within local communities.

This strategic change that has been complemented by national initiatives, has not only elevated the overall quality of life for Kenyan citizens but has also ushered in significant improvements for the most vulnerable sectors, including children.

The recently unveiled 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey sheds light on the positive outcomes attributed to the devolution process. Over the past decade, a notable surge in childhood immunization coverage has been witnessed, rising from 77% to 80%. This upward trajectory signifies enhanced access to healthcare services, a cornerstone of a healthier nation.

Equally noteworthy is the remarkable increase in skilled birth attendance, soaring from 48% to an impressive 89%. This shift underscores the advancement of maternal care services, ensuring safer childbirth experiences for mothers and their newborns.

Perhaps one of the most striking accomplishments is the substantial reduction in child stunting rates, plummeting from 35% to 18%. This notable decline serves as a clear testament to advancements in nutrition and child development, demonstrating the positive impact of devolution on the well-being of the youngest members of society.

Children constitute a substantial portion of Kenya’s demographic landscape, accounting for 46% of the population. Alongside them, women and girls represent half of the population. Recognizing the potential inherent in investing in these vulnerable groups yields far-reaching benefits for the nation’s future trajectory.

Additionally, education plays an indispensable role in shaping the prospects of young girls. The extension of their educational journey and the reduction of gender-based violence not only unlock their potential but also position them as future contributors to the economy.

Devolution has bestowed local governments with the mandate to tackle crucial drivers of poverty, encompassing areas such as inadequate housing, nutrition, safety, sanitation, and economic empowerment. These challenges disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, necessitating the formulation of tailored policies, budgets, and plans to address their unique needs effectively.

At the heart of this transformative shift lies transparent governance processes, granting citizens an active role in shaping decisions that hold a direct bearing on their lives. This inclusivity fosters accountability and strengthens citizen engagement, a hallmark of progressive governance.

A heartening trend emerging from the devolution journey is the augmented funding allocation to pivotal sectors, including education, health, gender equality, and social protection. Between 2019 and 2022, funding for these sectors witnessed a notable ascent from 38% to 43%, promising a brighter future for marginalized communities and a more equitable society.

However, challenges persist, underscoring the need to fortify the impact of devolution. Informed decision-making rooted in accurate data and evidence-based reasoning is paramount. Policies, budgets, and services must be rooted in dependable information. Equally critical is the respect and amplification of citizens’ voices. The Constitution of Kenya provides safeguards to uphold civic participation, a cornerstone of an engaged society.

Kenya’s Constitution envisioned a cooperative synergy between local and national governments, necessitating effective alignment. The ongoing struggle against poverty necessitates timely disbursement of allocated funds to local governments to facilitate the delivery of essential services, ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources.

Despite substantial progress, a significant proportion of Kenyan children remain entrapped in poverty, impeding the nation’s overall advancement. Urgent measures are needed, with particular emphasis on regions with alarmingly high child poverty rates, some even reaching an alarming 80%.

The devolution journey of Kenya underscores the significance of sustained dedication and inclusivity. By prioritizing social services and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, especially in disadvantaged regions, a more equitable and sustainable trajectory can be forged. With a resolute focus on the well-being of children and vulnerable groups, devolution evolves into a formidable agent of positive societal transformation.

The vision is lucid: a Kenya where every child flourishes and no one is left behind. As Kenya’s inspiring devolution saga continues, the unwavering commitment of all stakeholders is crucial in translating this vision into a tangible reality that will indelibly shape the country’s future for generations to come.

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