• Most illiterate, poor families say deaths of their malnourished children due to witchcraft.
• Health experts blame the situation on acute hunger due to drought.
A six-year-old child died on Tuesday raising concerns than many others face threats of malnutrition in Baringo county, health chief officer Dr Gideon Toromo has confirmed.
The dead child was the second the family of eight from Sabor village in Baringo South subcounty had lost to malnutrition. The other child died in 2013.
“Our six-year child had been very weak and emaciated. She suddenly developed difficulty in breathing before she died” the father, Joseph Cherutich said on Tuesday.
“We sought medication from various local health facilities but it could not help,” he said.
The family’s two-year-old child is currently admitted at Baringo Referral Hospital, Kabarnet bearing malnutrition-related symptoms.
“My problem has always been unavailability of food and money to take the children for treatment in case of illness,” Cherutich said.
However, Sabor Sub-location assistant chief Reuben Kigen blamed the death on neglect and alcoholism of the majority of the parents.
“The children are born with good health but after one year or two they start growing emaciated, have difficulty in walking or sitting down and darkening skin which starts to peel off,” Kigen said.
He said owing to the overindulgence in local brews the poor family lacked time to work and provide their children with food.
“Their only food could be ugali and sometimes without vegetables or milk,” the chief said.
He said although the government occasionally supplies relief food like rice, maize and beans, the families still lacked nutritive supplements.
Baringo health chief officer Dr Gideon Toromo said the children are suffering from a condition called acute protein-energy malnutrition caused by lack of proper diets.
Toromo said many children are facing malnutrition in the county although the majority of cases went unreported.
He said that the darkening inflammation of the children’s skin was indicative of a lack of magnesium in the body.
He also said that due to low immunity, the kids are prone to pneumonia and diarrhoea.
“Malnourished children also weigh less compared to their age because they lack important food like proteins and the infections are normally treated with antibiotics,” he said.
The county official also said the condition is common among the poor families especially those which do not consider family planning methods and proper spacing of children.
Toromo said the families require material and moral support from leaders and well-wishers saying they also require education on family planning methods and nutrition.
He also said the majority of the expectant mothers in the rural areas do not attend clinics during childbirth, making it difficult to discover such problems early.
Toromo noted the worst-hit areas as parts of Tiaty, Baringo South, Mogotio and Turkana mostly affected by perennial harsh droughts and hunger.
(edited by O. Owino)