Malnutrition on the rise in Turkana, West Pokot

Women sitting by the roadside at Oropoi village near Kakuma, Turkana County, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Malnutrition in children is on the rise in West Pokot and Turkana counties as drought continue to ravage the region.

According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) February early warning bulletin, West Pokot has reported a worsening nutrition status among children aged under five years.

The report shows malnutrition went up by 10 per cent from the previous two per cent.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Turkana county, 6.1 per cent of children surveyed during the period were found to be either severely or moderately malnourished.

Currently, 1,550 vulnerable households in Turkana Central are receiving Sh6,662 in cash transfers to support them.

Another 206 households in Turkana North have been enrolled in the programme where they are receiving Sh8,099.

Three months ago, the girl was found to be severely malnourished with complications at the Turkana County Referral Hospital. Her parents are pastoralists.

Many households in Turkana have lost their source of livelihood due to an extended drought.

In Turkana North, 14-year-old Margaret takes care of her five siblings following the death of their parents.

As the breadwinner for the family, Margaret weaves baskets and mats that she sells in a market about 20 kilometres from their home.

“Each day, life gets harder and harder. It is worrying that with the drought, I do not have a market for the woven items, and I plead to have them exchanged for food. It’s a sorry state for my siblings who depend on me,” said the teenager.

Though Margaret’s inherited her parent’s land, they cannot practise farming, due to low water levels at river Turkwel, which they normally depend on for irrigation.

The teenager is in despair, after her younger sibling was diagnosed with malaria and is malnourished.

To mitigate the impact of drought, Save the Children has trained community health volunteers on nutrition, including how to treat malnourished children.

Ms Abenyo Zeinjer, a government nutritionist, is one of those trained by Save the Children.

“Malnutrition has been one of the top three killer diseases here, many children from far villages could not attend all the follow-ups as required thus were discharged as defaulters or non-respondents. Currently, we are recording 90 per cent cure rate, with many children being enrolled in the nutritional program more than any other time before,” she said.

According to Kenya Metrological Department, the rainfall forecast for March 2022 indicates that counties in the North-Western Region including Turkana and Samburu will experience sunny and dry conditions with occasional rainfall expected towards the end of the month.