Report reveals Kenyans eating Ugali at high risk of malnutrition

Poor drainage has resulted in squalid conditions at Wakulima Market in Nakuru. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]
A new survey on nutritional status has painted a grim picture with results showing that more than 50 per cent of households in the country faces food insecurity.

The baseline study conducted through the advocacy programme, Sustainable Diets for All, found that many families survived on one or two meals daily, exposing them to malnutrition.

This emerged when Hivos, the Dutch-based organisation that sponsored the study in Meru, Embu and Nakuru between March and May, released the Nakuru results on Monday 4th June.

Hivos helps people to access sufficient, affordable and healthy food that is produced in a sustainable manner.

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While releasing the report, John Wesonga from Noble Consultation Company said the study sought to gather and provide background information on the status of sustainable diets of Kenyans in general and the residents of 10 sub-counties in particular.

The report noted that low-income dwellers in Bahati shopping center (Nakuru) and Karagita (Naivasha) were at a high risk of malnutrition because of a heavy dependency on maize, and because they could barely afford any other foods.

Food insecure

“There is over-reliance of maize products and as per our studies, 79 per cent of families eat ugali for supper while another 25 per cent feed on it for lunch,” he said.

He noted that women were more likely to be food insecure in every region of the world, with Africa leading in terms of figures.

According to Prof Wesonga, Kenya is a food insecure nation, with an estimated 51 per cent of the population lacking access to adequate nutrition. “Arid and semi-arid lands (Asal) regions experience higher rates of malnutrition among children, and pregnant or lactating women,” he said.

He expressed concern over the rise in gambling and sports betting, saying the vice was depriving the youth of their little savings that could be used to start small businesses.

“There is desire for quick money from betting and gambling among the youths as opposed to agriculture, which requires patience and commitment.”

County Assistant Director for Nutrition Lilian Marita identified Rongai and Gilgil as the two sub-counties that were facing underweight challenges.

According to Marita, 49.7 per cent of households in Rongai were food insecure, with mothers being the most affected.

“The two regions are semi-arid, thus the high cases of underweight persons. Currently, 52.1 per cent of households in Nakuru are food insecure,” she said.

Marita noted that paradoxically, the number of residents who were overweight or obese was on the rise, leading to an increase in cases of diabetes and hypertension.

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