TIMELY TREATMENT NEEDED

111,000 severely hungry Kenyan children face death

Without response, half of all acutely malnourished children under five years die, WHO says

In Summary
  • According to Unicef, some critical cases must be referred to health facilities for diagnosis and management of complications.
  • The current situation is brought about by the ongoing drought mostly in northern Kenya, which has left 2.1 million people without food.
A medical practitioner uses a mid upper-arm circumference measuring tape on a child indicating Severe Acute Malnutrition during a past response activity.
A medical practitioner uses a mid upper-arm circumference measuring tape on a child indicating Severe Acute Malnutrition during a past response activity.
Image: Unicef

At least 111,000 Kenyan children are severely malnourished and are facing death if they do not receive immediate treatment, a new assessment shows.

Without any response, half of all acutely malnourished children under five years die, the World Health Organisation says.

“Currently, 523,000 children are acutely malnourished, 111,000 of whom are severely malnourished and without timely treatment their lives are at risk,” says a statement by aid groups.

According to Unicef, such children can be treated with ready-to-use therapeutic food, allowing them to recover in their own homes and communities.

Some critical cases are referred to health facilities for diagnosis and management of complications.

The current situation is brought about by the ongoing drought mostly in northern Kenya, which has left 2.1 million people without food.

“In the 23 Arid and Semi-Arid counties, the overall food security trend has been deteriorating due to below average production and limited income generating activities linked to Covid-19 restrictions,” says the statement shared by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Commission, on behalf of other aid agencies.

The drought follows the poor performance of two consecutive rainy seasons and a forecast for below average rains for October – December 2021.

On September 8, the government declared the ongoing drought situation a national disaster, calling for relevant ministries to initiate emergency assistance including water, food distribution and livestock uptake.

“In addition, livestock migration beyond usual grazing areas is expected to intensify from September. This could lead to an increase of resource-based conflicts, potentially disrupting markets and access to basic services, like health and education, and further disrupting livelihood activities,” the aid agencies say.

Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga notes that the situation could worsen as maize harvest this year is expected to drop by 30 per cent.

Boga said the long-term average for the long rain season harvest is usually around 36 million bags of maize.

“But this year we are estimating around 28 million bags of maize from the long rains harvest. This is due to erratic rains where most areas received 30 per cent less rain,” he said on Wednesday during an interview with the Star.

The Kenya Meteorological Department October-November-December short rains outlook projected depressed rains in many parts of the country.

The PS said this means there will be low production in the Eastern and Central regions. He said the expected harvest for the short rains is usually about seven million bags, but this year they estimate around 3.5 million bags.

“We have to factor this into our planning for next year. By December, we will still have food and prices will still be stable. We expect imports for Uganda and Tanzania between January and February, but we will keep monitoring the situation and production within and even in Uganda and Tanzania,” Boga said.

-Edited by SKanyara