COST OF LIVING

Number of Kenyans sleeping hungry on the rise - World Bank

Food insecurity is rising in Kenya and up to five million people will need food assistance by September 2022.

In Summary
  • Just under 90% of households reported using one or more strategies to cope high cost of living
  • The cost of a 2-kilo bag of sifted maize flour has risen by over Sh25 in just three months to Sh152. 
Fried pork and ugali
Fried pork and ugali
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

One out of every three households in Kenya sleeps hungry due to the high cost of living, the latest World Bank survey shows.

This, the report notes is despite employment levels returning to pre-Covid 19 pandemic levels.

The bank's Kenya Economic Update shows the share of households unable to access staple food in the country has increased to 36 per cent from November last year to March.

In Kenya, maize flour is the staple food. The cost of a 2-kilo bag of sifted maize flour has risen by over Sh25 in just three months to Sh152. 

Rural areas are worst hit at 38 per cent while 33 per cent of families in urban areas are struggling to put food on the table.

The proportion of households that are unable to access staple food due to increases in prices has increased sharply to over 50 percent

Just under 90 per cent of households reported using one or more strategies to cope in November 2021-March 2022, with no improvement across the second half of 2021 .

The most common approaches are relying on savings (32 per cent), and seeking additional income-generating activities (31 per cent), however, the share of households who engaged in these strategies has declined.

Fewer households reduced their food and non-food consumption compared to July-October 2021, yet the strategy remains among one of the most frequently used ones, pointing towards food insecurity.

The continued reliance on coping mechanisms suggests households still lack disposable income, for instance, the use of credit remains at its highest level since the start of the pandemic (27 per cent of households).

Finally, 11 per cent of households relied on government assistance, nearly twice as many as in July-October 2021, following an increase in government assistance in 23 counties affected by drought.

The government declared the drought a national emergency in September 2021 and an assessment of the October-December 2021 short spots of rain indicated that the drought has left 3.1 million Kenyans food insecure in the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas.

The global lender has predicted even tougher living conditions going forward, indicating that up to five million people will need food assistance by September 2022.

The cost of living has been rising in recent months, accelerating to a new record of 7.1 per cent in May as the cost of food and beverages rose sharply partly affected by the war in Ukraine which has affected energy and food prices.

Latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows the month-to-month Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages Index increased by 1.3 per cent, a lower rate, however, compared to the rise of 3.03 per cent registered between March 2022 and April 2022.

To mitigate this, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) increased the base lending rate by 50 basis points to 7.5 per cent in an effort to control inflation.

High inflation is a global crisis, with some developing countries like the UK, the USA and Germany experiencing the highest cost of living in 40 years. 

Even so, the share of the working-age population in employment has returned to the same level as before the pandemic.

The employment share dipped from 80 to 71 per cent between July-October 2021 and November 2021-March 2022, likely driven by fewer households having to temporarily engage in additional income-generating activities to cope with the pandemic.

Overall, there has been a broad reversion toward pre-pandemic employment rates, and this has occurred across educational, geographical, and gender groups.