About Kenya

Considered an archeological treasure trove—some of the earliest fossilized human remains were unearthed here along the shores of Lake Rudolf and in the Koobi Fora area—the Republic of Kenya is located in Eastern Africa and bordered by Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The population of about 54.7 million people is concentrated mostly in the west of the country, near the shores of Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake, and also in the southeast, along the coast of the Indian Ocean. Nairobi, the capital, is home to almost 5 million people, and 28 percent of the population live in urban areas. Kenya is ethnically diverse, with Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Somali, Kisii, Mijikenda, Meru, Maasai, and Turkana groups making up the population. English and Kiswahili are the official languages, in addition to several other indigenous languages spoken throughout the country.

Formerly a colony of England, Kenya achieved independence in 1963. It is a major hub for the economy and transport in Eastern Africa. While the country’s economic growth is notable, development has been slowed by corruption and poor governance. As such, Kenya has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at roughly 40 percent, with about 36 percent of the population living below the poverty line. A lack of infrastructure also precludes efforts to improve unemployment and poverty rates. Agriculture contributes to one-third of the Kenyan GDP, and nearly 75 percent of the Kenyan population is employed by the sector in some capacity.

One of Kenya’s biggest health challenges is HIV/AIDS, with some of the highest prevalence rates in the world among adults. While deaths due to HIV/AIDS decreased by over 40 percent between 2009 and 2019, it is still the leading cause of death in the country. Other major causes of death include lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, neonatal disorders, stroke, tuberculosis, ischemic heart disease, cirrhosis, malaria, diabetes, and meningitis. The risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include malnutrition, unsafe sex, insufficient water, sanitation, and hygiene, air pollution, high blood pressure, high body-mass index, high fasting plasma glucose, dietary risks, tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, and intimate partner violence. Of note, there is a very high risk of infectious diseases such as bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, dengue fever, rift valley fever, schistosomiasis, and rabies.

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