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14 July 2021 - News

Press release: Pro-poor social budgets still impoverish poor children in Kenya

14 July 2021, Nairobi: While Kenya has made substantial strides in ensuring social spending reaches its most vulnerable children, inequalities in children’s outcomes persist across the country, according to a new report launched today.

Laying bare some of the intentional and unintentional consequences of public finance, the report shows how decisions about how much to spend on health care or education, or about what tax regime to follow (fiscal policies in Kenya) affect children living in different forms of poverty. For instance, drawing on the latest data from financial year 2015/16, the report reveals that the Kenyan financial system largely increases poverty among families with children thanks to large indirect taxes and small cash transfers.

Overall, social spending on children in Kenya was found to be pro-poor, meaning that poor and marginalised children benefit significantly from public spending. For example, while over 52% of children in Kenya are living in poverty, over 57% of public spending is focused on sectors that benefit these children, such as education and cash transfers.

But not all public spending in Kenya was found to be pro-poor. While spending on education was found to be pro-poor in primary education, secondary education mostly benefits more advantaged children. Heath spending benefits rich children more than poor children as social assistance cash-transfer programmes, while pro-poor, we found them to be very small in size.

In response to these findings, we are calling on the government of Kenya to increase the progressivity of both revenue-raising and spending, and in doing so increase the coverage and quality of health systems, education and cash transfers for children living in poverty,” said Yvonne Arunga, Save the Children’s Country Director for Kenya and Madagascar, the organisation behind the report, dubbed Fair Shares? Fiscal Equity for Children in Kenya.  

The analysis also reveals that while revenue-raising activities in Kenya are pro-poor, the current combined impact of taxation and cash transfers in Kenya still impoverishes children. This is because cash transfers are too small to offset the impacts of substantial indirect taxes for the poorest families.

Our team has revealed that some poor and marginalised children can and do benefit significantly from public spending in Kenya. When we put a monetary value on services such as education and health, for example, those public services actually lead to the largest reductions in child poverty.

However, if we want to achieve a Kenya that enables children to reach their full potential, we need to ensure that all sectors prioritise the poorest children. We at Save the Children welcome the opportunity to work more closely with the government of Kenya to ensure that decisions around social programs are made in a way that helps as many children as possible now, so they can become healthy and productive adults for Kenya’s future,” said Ms. Arunga.

This will be the first time such an analysis has focused directly on children in Kenya, providing new evidence on how financial decisions impact the poorest children.



Notes to Editors:

About Save the Children

Save the Children has been providing support to children in Kenya through our development and humanitarian programmes since 1950. We work with communities, local partners, and the government to design and deliver programmes to meet the needs of the most deprived children. We also advocate for greater investment of public and private resources for children.

More about the Report, methodology, impact and actual data to be discussed by a strong panellist drawn from the World Bank, UNICEF and Save the Children, moderated by Yvonne Arunga on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 at 10AM EAT/ 8AM London, UK on Zoom, and you can register here( to receive the link to the webinar.