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5 May 2022 - News

MALNUTRITION CASES IN TURKANA RISE AS DROUGHT PERSISTS

By Marion Kwambai

Aule and Nawei are only 8 months old. The innocent twin girls, who live in a village in Turkana Central Sub-County, have however not been so lucky.

Since their birth, the two girls have known nothing but drought. During a recent mass screening session conducted by Save the Children in the sub-county about a month ago, it was discovered that Aule and Nawei were severely malnourished. The two were immediately admitted to the Outpatient Therapeutic Program (OTP), and were treated with Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for 28 days.

Aule was admitted with a Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of 11.1, weight of 4.7 Kgs and a height of 6.8 cms while Nawei was admitted with a MUAC of 11.2, weight of 4.8 Kgs and a height of 61.5 cms.

Their 35-year-old mother Rebekah, who is also a mother of five other children, tells us that this is the first time any of her children have been diagnosed with malnutrition. She says the worsening drought condition is to blame.

Yesterday, we had to sleep hungry because we did not have anything to eat. I could not go to collect wild fruits because I have to look after my young children because they are unwell, says a discouraged Rebekah.

She further tells us that most of her goats have died due to the drought and her children no longer have milk to drink. She adds that the little money her husband makes from casual labor is not enough to provide nutritious food for the entire family.

When I gave birth to the twins, I could not continue with my basket weaving business and that meant that we had to solely rely on my husband’s meager income for survival. At that time, however, our goats were healthy and they could produce milk to feed the young ones. That has since changed; right now I don’t know where our next meal will come from. Rebekah says.

As a mother, I am very stressed when they sleep hungry and get sick as you can see. I am very hopeless right now, says Rebekah. “Without food, we are really helpless, I am requesting the government to consider us during this difficult moment and send us food aid.”

We find Rebekah and the twins in the emergency integrated health outreach for a follow-up. She excitedly informs us that Aule and Nawei’s health has greatly improved since they started treatment.  Aule has a MUAC of 11.2 and weighs 5.2 Kgs while Nawei has a MUAC of 11.7 and weighs 5.6 Kgs.

Rebekah confesses that the outreaches have been of great assistance because her children are able to receive treatment there. She says that she could not take them to Nakoret Dispensary because it is a 2-hour walk to and from the facility under the hot sun. With the medication she was given to give her children she is optimistic that their health will improve.  Her only worry right now is in getting proper food to give them to supplement the medication they are taking.

Save the children conducts regular mass screening sessions in Turkana Central and Turkana North Sub Counties with the main purpose of determining the prevalence rates of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in the County as well as identifying the malnutrition hot spots and the communities in dire need of humanitarian response.   

Background / Project information

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), the effects of a third consecutive below-average rainy season are resulting to deteriorating food security outcomes driven by the impacts of poor crop and livestock production, resource-based conflict, livestock disease and mortality, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In its annual Short Rains Assessment report released in February 2022, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) reported that there are around 3.1 million food-insecure people in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, a 48 percent increase since August 2021.

Multiple shocks driven by climate crisis have contributed to increasing vulnerability in the northern Kenya counties with pastoralists being among the worst affected households.

There is notable migration of pastoralists in search of water and pasture, a decrease in milk consumption at the household level, drying of water sources and an increase in trekking distance to water sources. Multiple shocks driven by climate crisis have contributed to increasing vulnerability in the northern Kenya counties with pastoralists being among the worst affected households.

In the light of the escalating crisis, Save the Children plans to scale up early action in the two counties of Turkana and Mandera currently at alert phase with worsening drought situation as we scale up donor and stakeholder engagement for these two counties.