Four million starving Kenyans in urgent need, food report shows

Women wait in a queue for a water bowser at Nasinyono village in Turkana West Sub County. [File, Standard]

The number of people in need of urgent food assistance has increased to 4.1 million, up from 3.5 million in February.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis further estimates that 942,000 children aged below five years are acutely malnourished in 12 arid and semi-arid counties.

The affected counties cited in the report include Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera, Turkana, and West Pokot.

Others are Isiolo, Samburu, Baringo, Garissa, Tana River, Kitui and Meru. In Mandera, the overall number of children in need of treatment has increased to nearly 126,140, representing an increase of 30 per cent.

“The decline in household consumption and particularly of dairy products due to reduced mild availability has expected implications for child malnutrition, but it is not the only factor,” the report shows.

The study further shows acute malnutrition in Garissa, Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, Wajir, and Isiolo will remain at a critical level until the end of this month. While in Tana River, the situation is likely to deteriorate from the current serious level to a critical level.

The Acute Food Insecurity analysis update indicated that out of the 12 counties analysed, Mandera and Wajir counties have shown a huge deterioration, shifting from crisis to emergency. The report says 4.1 million, or 27 per cent of the population, were classified to be in need of urgent food assistance during the March-June period. A Risk of Famine analysis conducted in Mandera on May 9 indicated malnutrition rates of 34.7 per cent, already above the famine threshold, for the county.

In the January-March period, evidence shows a consistent decrease in milk consumption per household from 1.2 litres to between 0.3-0.4 litres, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).

However, the report added that the situation in the worst-hit county of Mandera is unlikely to deteriorate to famine levels in a short time span.

“Malnutrition rates, however, are expected to worsen given that they were already above the famine thresholds and expected to rise in both the worst-case scenario and the most likely scenario,” the report noted. In response to the drought, the WFP is supporting more than 108,000 people with cash (Sh5,000 per family) in Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu, and Turkana for a duration of three months and in-kind food in North Horr for a similar duration.

“WFP is providing food and cash as part of the resilience and livelihoods support to 370,000 food insecure Kenyans in drought-affected arid and semi-arid areas,” said WFP-Kenya communication officer Martin Karimi.

He added, “This support helps families preserve productive assets from which they derive their livelihoods. The resilience programme guards against climatic shocks and moves families towards food security.”

In a bid to address malnutrition, WFP is providing peanut-based paster and fortified flour to 80,000 children and 60,000 pregnant women monthly in nine arid counties.

WFP says it will extend food and cash assistance to 960,000 people and blanket supplementary feeding (nutrition) for 486,000 children and 122,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in the worst fairing counties.