About 70,000 children risk malnutrition, survey reveals

About 70, 000 children in the country risk severe malnutrition unless intervention measures are urgently instituted, a survey has revealed.

Subsequently, Patrick Mweki, Action against Hunger Country Director for Kenya and Somalia has urged the government to take remedial action and save children from imminent death.

Some of the children risk ultimate death from the drought related hunger Mweki said Monday in Nairobi while releasing the survey report.

The survey, conducted by the government, Save the Children and nine NGOs working in the country, reveals alarming malnutrition rates in Turkana, East Pokot, Mandera, Samburu and West Pokot.

In one sub-county alone, Turkana South, the severe acute malnutrition rates among children under 5 years has reached an unprecedented 12 percent and in the aftermath of the recent general election, we’re calling on the government to prioritize the drought response, said Mweki.

The aid organizations are thus urgently calling on the national and local government who are leading in the drought response, in coordination with aid agencies to prioritize critical funds and support for the response which includes food programmes to reach the most vulnerable and prevent needless deaths.

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, said Francis Woods, Save the Children’s Interim Country Director in Kenya.

He added that the overall nutrition situation continues to be of great concern including deteriorations recorded in some counties saying this situation is likely to worsen as we enter the lean and short rains season.

Woods added that families in some of the hardest hit areas have been pushed to the brink with the loss of their livestock, which they depend on for their livelihood, food and milk with many of them now barely surviving on just a meal a day, when they can find it.

Many mothers can no longer breastfeed their babies because they are too starved to produce enough milk with the survey revealing that nearly 40,000 pregnant and nursing women across Kenya are malnourished, a 20 percent increase from last year leaving them and their children’s lives hanging in the balance, added Woods.

Despite government cash transfers, Woods said many households in the country’s northern region are not meeting their daily recommended food requirements with a recent cost of diet assessment in Turkana County by Save the Children/UNICEF showing that even households classified as better off can no longer afford three meals a day.

The international community must make more funds available to support the Kenyan government and aid agencies working on the ground to stop this already critical situation from spiraling Woods said noting that this could worsen an already extremely dangerous situation for Kenya’s children and mothers.

World Vision’s Country Director in Kenya Francois Batalingaya noted that as experienced in neighbouring Somalia, the risk is that once the high rates of malnutrition combine with disease outbreaks prompted by a lack of clean water, large numbers of young children will start to die from hunger and related complications, like diarrhea.

The survey conducted in July 2017 shows that in Turkana alone, severe acute malnutrition rates, the most life threatening form of hunger are up nearly four-fold in just one year, from 2.3 percent to 8.3 percent.

The assessments also reveal alarmingly high severe acute malnutrition rates in several counties namely East Pokot at 5.8 percent, Mandera at 5.2 percent and Samburu at 3.8 percent and West Pokot at 3.2 percent.

Source: Kenya News Agency