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UN Report Says Kenyans Getting Poorer

Many Kenyans are dismayed over the findings of a United Nations report that says poverty has increased in the East African nation and that the rich-poor gap has widened. Cathy Majtenyi has more for VOA from Nairobi.

The U.N. report says 10 percent of Kenya's households control more than 42 percent of the country's wealth. Nairobi province has the fewest poor people and North Eastern the most. In North Eastern, the report says, there is one doctor for every 120,000 people.

These and other statistics are contained in the U.N.'s Kenya National Human Development Report 2006.

The report says that poverty has increased marginally in most of Kenya's provinces, and that 50 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line.

Tiberius Barasa, a researcher with Kenya's Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, says the country's economy is growing but the wealth being created is not equally distributed.

"Look at the people who are benefiting from the bigger economy: who are they? They are these people who own business companies, they are the people who own some assets, people who own land in this country - they are people who are benefiting most," Barasa said. "The poor are only providing their service, which is actually underpaid, and that's why they remain poor. The incomes are not able to sustain them."

When the government of Mwai Kibaki came to power almost five years ago, it promised economic growth and poverty reduction. It introduced free primary school education, greater health care coverage, and a youth employment initiative.

Barasa says that these and other policies are good, but may not have been executed well.

"Some people who are involved in implementing these policies or those who are supposed to be spearheading the implementation of the policies are not just being serious or they're not doing their job," he said.

"To a minor extent, you could say maybe there are some problems also with some policies - that they are not really targeting the people who really need to be targeted," he added.

The Kenya National Human Development Report, released Tuesday by the United Nations Development Program, looks at life expectancy, primary and secondary school enrollment, annual per capital income, heath care availability, and other indicators in Kenya's eight provinces.

Nyanza Province in the western part of the country has the lowest life expectancy - 44 years - primarily because of the high incidence of HIV/AIDS.

Living standards for women have improved in most provinces.