Friday, July 17, 2009

Malnutrition emergency in Kenya

Malnutrition levels for children in Northern Kenya have risen above emergency levels. The lack of food is due to extended droughts in the already arid climate that has little farm land.

From this IRIN story that we found at Reuters, we learn more about the dangerous situation in Kenya.

"Poor rains in April, May and June worsened food insecurity in the region, where 74 percent of the population [estimated at 550,000] already depends on food aid," Vincent Kahi, the health coordinator for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said on 15 July at a press briefing in Nairobi.

He said at least 50 percent of child deaths in the region were due to malnutrition or had malnutrition as an underlying cause of death.

Turkana is a mostly arid region, with little agriculture. Most of the population depends on livestock, but the viability of pastoralism is being undermined by recurrent and increasingly unpredictable droughts and armed conflict with groups from neighbouring regions or countries.

Across the country, "food security prospects for the coming months are dismal", according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"In [the north-central] Samburu district, the percentage of children under-five considered at risk of malnutrition increased to 29.4 from 21.8 last month. In Moyale [in the northeast], the nutrition status of children below five years declined, with the percentage of children rated at risk of malnutrition rising to 35 percent from 30.6 in April," OCHA warned in a weekly bulletin.

"The decline was attributed to higher food prices and reduced availability of food," it added.

"Given the very poor outcomes of the long rains, the situation is expected to seriously deteriorate, especially in districts receiving no or limited support, if nutrition interventions do not maintain higher levels of coverage in some districts e.g. Kajiado, Kinango, Marsabit, Wajir, Turkana, West Pokot, and do not scale-up in others i.e. Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo," the report warned.

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