Nyeri County has formed part of many discussions, arising out of the just released 2019 Housing and Population Census results, for registering surprisingly low numbers in terms of overall population, and average household sizes.
The County, that was once a force to reckon with in the Mt. Kenya region, was found to have a current population of 752,695 as compared to neighbouring Murang’a and Kiambu Counties, which registered 1.0 million and 2.4 million residents respectively.
Commenting on the Census findings, Governor Mutahi Kahiga noted that although discouraging, the County leadership had accepted the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) numbers, because they resonate with the figures obtained from the 2018 Universal Health Coverage registration exercise in the County, of around 750,000 people.
But what exactly ails the epicentre of Central Kenya?
Governor Kahiga pointed out that Nyeri is one of the leading Counties in terms of family planning uptake.
Apart from making economical sense, family planning has gained popularity, because of its contribution to lowering maternal deaths, by preventing high-risk pregnancies and eliminating the need for women to procure abortions, in cases of unwanted pregnancies.
Further, well-spaced families mean that children get the required amount of care and attention, which translates to reduced infant mortality, in line with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s vision of Kenyan children living beyond their first year of birth.
While the high use of contraception in the County is beneficial health wise and policy wise, Nyeri is slowly losing its population advantage.
The County Head also noted that Nyeri youth are quick to migrate to other Counties, such as Nairobi, in pursuit of employment after completing their secondary school and university studies.
“Our young men and women are very impatient. They are not staying in Nyeri long enough. Everywhere you go you will find people from Nyeri,” he explained.
Lastly, Kahiga observed that modern couples have trashed the traditional values of bearing as many children as possible and are opting for a maximum of one child.
“They are stopping at one…my mother got nine. Myself I have worked very hard to get four,” said the Late Wahome Gakuru successor.
Nevertheless, Kahiga reiterated his contention with the 2019 numbers, and challenged individuals with objections to provide scientific evidence for their sentiments.
He also asserted that he was not concerned about being allocated less resources to match the small population size, since as long as the resources are well utilised, the County will function as well as before.