New research shows that nearly 73,000 children in Kenya are severely malnourished. The situation is life-threatening – they need aid urgently.
On top of this, nearly 40,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women across Kenya are malnourished. This is a stunning 20% increase from last year.
Many mothers are so malnourished they are no longer produce enough milk to breastfeed their babies.
Alarming new research
This research was undertaken by Departments of Health in several counties in Kenya together with UNICEF and nine other charities working on the ground, including us.
In Turkana country – in North-East Kenya – rates of life-threatening hunger have increased four-fold. In Turkana South, this includes an unprecedented 12% of children.
Our research also reveals alarmingly high rate of severe acute malnutrition in four more Kenyan counties – East Pokot, Mandera, Samburu and West Pokot.
What does this mean day to day?
The loss of the livestock, which families depend on for milk, food and their livelihoods, has pushed many to the brink.
Francis Woods, our interim Country Director in Kenya explains:
“The drought has left tens of thousands of children and families—including the most vulnerable under five, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers—in a life-threatening situation.
“Many are now barely surviving on just a meal a day, when they can find it.”
Even households classified as better off can no longer afford three meals a day due to food shortages, which have led to rising food prices.
Now is the time for action
Following the general election in Kenya two weeks ago, now is the time to act. Aid organisations are urgently calling on the national and local governments—who are leading on the drought response —to prioritise funding and support for families.
As we’ve seen in neighbouring Somalia, the greatest risk is when malnutrition combines with disease outbreaks – a situation often prompted by a lack of clean water. When this happens large numbers of children die from complications, like diarrhoea.
“The situation is likely to worsen. The recent elections must be used as an opportunity to reverse the tragedy,’’ Patrick Mweki, Action Against Hunger Country Director for Kenya and Somalia, has warned.
These complications are easy to treat and entirely preventable – if we reach these children in time.