Happy baby on the beach in Durban, South Africa. (Photo/ Flickr/ Rafiq Sarlie)

Better Health And Fewer Children In Africa Means Disappearing Names

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OVER the last two decades – particularly with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda – the percentage of women giving birth in health facilities has improved significantly in nearly all African countries.

One of the most dramatic improvements has been in Rwanda, at just 27% in 2000, the percentage is now at 91% according to latest government data. Even a relatively wealthy country like Egypt has come a long way from just 33% in 1995 to 87% in 2014.

But there may be some unexpected consequences. In much of Africa, children are named after the circumstances of their birth. Among the Akamba of Kenya, the names Mwanzia (male) and the female version, Nzilani, mean ‘born by the roadside’. The same goes for the names Makori and the female version Nyanchera among the Abagusii of Kenya, and the Sotho name Tseleng, which are also indicative of a roadside birth.

But with more Kenyan women giving birth in a health facility, from an average of 40% in 2003, to 61% in 2014, it suggests fewer children will be born by the roadside, and names like Mwanzia, Nzilani and Nyanchera might become less common or even become extinct.

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Similarly, women in Africa are giving birth to fewer children and thus having smaller families. In Ghana for example, the average woman in 1975 had at least six children, by 2012 this had fallen to less than 3.92.

It means that in the next few decades, the name Essien (sixth born), might disappear, only being kept alive by those who name their children after the famous Ghanaian footballer.

The same goes for the names Ansong (seventh born), Awotwie (eighth born) and Akun/Nkrumah (ninth born) – but at least Nkrumah is salvaged by its association with Ghana’s founding president.



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