In Summary
  • Timely action by the government and partner organisations may have saved thousands of children from retarding,
  • In Mandera, nearly one third of the county’s population is malnourished. The malnutrition rates have risen above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent in many parts of the country.
  • In marginal agricultural areas, which include the south east and coastal parts of Kenya, households will likely remain stressed (IPC Phase 2) until July 2017

Up to four million Kenyans could be in need of food aid in the coming few weeks, and the situation could get even worse if the long rains fail, reports by relief organisations show.

The finding means that relief efforts by the government will have to be sustained in order to prevent what is already a disaster from getting worse.

In a statement sent to Nation Newsplex Thursday, the Kenya Red Cross announced that three million people currently need food assistance according to government estimates, and the number could rise to four million in the coming weeks.

But some good news is also emerging. Timely action by the government and partner organisations may have saved thousands of children from retarding, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). But it could require much more to wipe out the lasting effects of low diet among children.

“The urgent action we need is getting the treatment to the kids who are malnourished. That is happening. We are working with the government and agencies like United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) to make sure that the nutrition supplements are getting to the kids,” Ms Aida Mengistu, the head of the OCHA Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa, said today, on the sidelines of a meeting organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Nairobi this week.

The current drought may not have severe effects as that of 2011 when 10 million people in the Horn of Africa faced famine and more than 200,000 died from hunger, the IGAD meeting heard.

From left: Principal Secretary in the State Department for Special Programmes Ms Jospheta Mukobe, IGAD Executive Secretary Amb. Mahboub Maalim and H.E. Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers during a consultative meeting on drought preparedness, response and recovery held at Hotel Intercontinental hotel on March 31, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE

“We are focusing on the vulnerable. In the food we have purchased, a lot of it is meant to replenish their health. These are special foods targeting pregnant, lactating mothers and children. It is a nutrition component that we hope can reverse this trend,” Planning PS Josepheta Mukobe told Nation Newsplex

STEADILY WORSE

The Meteorological Department is predicting that rainfall will be depressed between the months of March and May, normally Kenya’s long rain season.

Data reviewed by Newsplex shows that the food emergency has gotten steadily worse. According to a recently released government report, there are now 2.6 million people in need of food, double those who were in need in August 2016. Of that number, 42 per cent, or 1.1 million are children.

In Isiolo - the worst hit county by percentage - 83,900 or more than half the county population (55 per cent) is at risk. Other counties with high proportions of their populations at risk include Marsabit, Tana River and Samburu (all 44 per cent) and Lamu (40 per cent).

Another group of counties has between one third and a quarter of people in need. They include Wajir (32 per cent), Garissa (29 per cent), Mandera (28 per cent), and Turkana, Kwale and Nyeri (all 25 per cent).

These statistics are contained in the Short Rains Assessment Report published in February 2017 by the Food Security Steering Group (FSSG), a grouping of Kenyan government departments and international organisations.

More information is also contained in the report of the Kenya Flash Appeal, which seeks to raise Sh17 billion.

More than four out of five of the 2.6 million in need by February (2.2 million) are classified as being in crisis while the remainder are considered stressed. That classification is done according to the Integrated Phase Classification, an internationally accepted benchmark used to measure the severity of food emergencies.

SEVERE ACUTE MALNUTRITION

Half the people affected are in seven counties, which are Turkana, Kwale, Mandera, Kilifi, Kitui, Makueni and Wajir. Turkana has the largest number of people affected, with 276,200 at risk, a quarter of its population.

Across the country, 23 arid and semi-arid counties are at risk. Thirteen of them, or just over half, depend on livestock, while another 10 depend on agriculture in marginal or less fertile areas.

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