• School closures restrict access to the free and reduced-price meal programmes.
• According to the Economic Review of Agriculture, 51 per cent of the population lacks access to adequate food and other basic needs.
The Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdown measures have produced significant interruptions in young people’s lives, including the closure of learning institutions, the impact of which is still to be analysed and understood in the future.
School closures restrict access to the free and reduced-price meal programmes, Health consequences of food insecurity include fatigue and reduced immune response, potentially increasing the risk of contracting Covid-19, and long-term effects on development as well as psychological, emotional, and physical health.
The Kenya Constitution recognises food as a human right under the Bill of Rights while the National Social Protection Policy acknowledges school meals as a crucial safety net for school children and their families to enhance their livelihoods.
Poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition are particularly severe in the arid and semi-arid lands, which cover 80 per cent of Kenya’s land and comprise a third of the population. According to the Economic Review of Agriculture, 51 per cent of the population lacks access to adequate food and other basic needs.
Therefore, nutrition and menstrual hygiene management should be an integral part of the response to Covid-19 to ensure this global crisis does not cause malnutrition and reproductive health crisis. Protecting the poorest and most vulnerable from the serious collateral effects will be important to prevent a crisis within a crisis as the pandemic progresses.
The Ministry of Education is planning to roll out a community-based learning programme which will be jointly coordinated by the ministry, their Interior counterparts and Nyumba Kumi initiative to ensure all learners participate.
This provides a great window to distribute food and sanitary materials, especially for most vulnerable children and adolescents. Inculcating food and sanitary pads distribution will help in retaining learners in the the programme, indirectly reduce exposure of young girls to sexual violence or exploitation and reduce the cases of adolescents and teenage pregnancies which have been on the rise since the report of the virus in Kenya.