Kenya is the second country in East Africa after Rwanda where an infant is likely to survive, a study has shown.
The report released last month shows that infant mortality rate in Kenya is at 37 per 1,000 births.
In Rwanda, the number is 32, according to a world population data prepared by US-based Population Reference Bureau.
In Uganda and Tanzania, the figure is 43 while Ethiopia is the worst country after South Sudan and Somalia to be born in at 48 deaths per 1,000 births.
In Burundi, the number is 47.
The figure is grim for South Sudan and Somalia at 72 and 74 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively.
In 2014, the infant mortality in Kenya was 39 for every 1,000 births.
Dr Walter Otieno, a Kisumu paediatrician, said Kenya had tremendously done well in improving children’s health.
Dr Otieno, who is also the principal investigator in the malaria vaccine study, said improved public health schemes, access to water and sanitation and living conditions were products of the country’s economic growth.
According to the 2015 Kenya Demographic Health Survey data, increased ownership of insecticide-treated bed nets in malaria endemic zones was also contributing to the low infant mortality rate.
“We have ensured that those children who live in such areas sleep under treated mosquito nets,” Dr Otieno said.
Dr Otieno added that scaling up the use of insecticide treated nets, indoor residual spraying, use of more effective artemisinin based drugs and improved diagnostic capacity in hospitals had reduced children’s deaths.
Experts say Rwanda has the best universal health system in the region.
Life expectancy in Rwanda is 64 years.
More than 97 percent of Rwandan infants are vaccinated against illnesses.
Rwanda’s 99 percent uptake of BCG, a vaccine against Tuberculosis, in 2012 ranked it far ahead of countries such as Poland, Portugal and Nigeria.
The country also boasts of a 86 percent vaccination of newborns against tetanus, beating countries such as South Africa (74 percent) and the Philippines (76 percent).
“Rwanda’s usage of treated mosquito nets is far much better than Kenya. The country’s 2005-9 Strategic Plan against Malaria focused on reducing under-five morbidity and mortality through home-based treatment and provision of insecticide-treated bed nets,” Dr Otieno said, adding that the child mortality rate in Rwanda had reduced by 66 percent since 1990.
But he applauded Kenya for having the best antimalarial interventions, including indoor residual spraying, use of effective drugs and improved diagnosis.
Vaccination of children in Kenya has also improved.
Almost eight in 10 Kenyans aged between 12 and 23 have received basic vaccinations.
“Almost 99 percent of Kenyans women breastfeed, improving the health of infants,” he said.
Unicef says some of these basic life saving mechanisms lack in other countries, especially in South Sudan and Somalia.
According to Unicef, 28 percent of children in South Sudan are underweight and 31 percent are stunted.
These are some of the main causes of infant deaths worldwide.
“South Sudan has one of the lowest routine immunisation coverage rates on the globe,” the report added.
Most women in South Sudan have babies at home, with only 20 percent seeking help from the skilled birth attendants.
Approximately 29,000 children under five die annually and 75 percent of the deaths are due to malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.