Child poverty




In Kenya today, 46% of the population lives below the poverty line[1]. As a result, it is a daily challenge for many families to afford the nutritious food they need. Levels of malnutrition are high and one third of all children in Kenya are stunted[2]. Thousands are at risk of hunger each year and the Horn of Africa food crisis of 2011 left 3.75 million people in urgent need of emergency assistance. The situation is particularly difficult for children living in nomadic communities in the arid and semi-arid areas of north-eastern Kenya. Here, up to 16% of children still suffer from malnutrition, even once the drought ended in 2012-13[3].

The effect of hunger on children is profound. Without enough of the right kinds of food, children are at a high risk of becoming malnourished. This affects both their physical and mental development and leaves them more likely to contract life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia. When communities face hunger, children are also more likely to drop out of school and become more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.


Save the Children knows that protecting the livelihoods of vulnerable households is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that children and their families have access to the nutritious food they need to grow and remain healthy. Successful livelihoods also allow families to send children to school, afford healthcare when children are sick and ensure a safe living environment. We have a particular focus on supporting nomadic communities living in two of the most arid counties in the country – Mandera, Wajir and Turkana – which are among the most food insecure parts of the country. This year, we will directly reach approximately 26,000 children and their family members with our food security and livelihoods work. To achieve this:

We are helping nomadic families to increase their incomes

Nomadic communities rely heavily on the abundance of grazing land and water sites to rear their livestock, which in turn enables them to feed their families and earn an income. This year, Save the Children is working with nomadic communities to conserve grazing lands and improve management practices. For example, we have established 12 pastoralist field training centres across Mandera where livestock herders can discuss challenges they are facing, and receive training on how to plan grazing schedules more effectively to ensure that sufficient land is preserved for the lean season.

To support nomadic communities further, Save the Children has distributed grass seeds to increase supplies of fodder and thereby improve livestock productivity. Because herders in these remote areas have extremely limited access to veterinary care and drugs, we are supporting veterinary pharmacists to establish private pharmacies. By doing this, we are improving herders’ access to essential veterinary drugs and advice. These pharmacists travel across large parts of the county, ensuring that even the most remote communities can benefit from their services. In addition, Save the Children is helping pastoralists to secure the largest profit for their animal sales and avoid being exploited. To do this, we will work with the National Disaster Management Authority to improve market price information systems for farmers so they know the best locations to trade in as well as the current prices of commodities such as milk and cattle.

We are strengthening early warning systems and improving disaster risk management

Disaster risk management and climate change adaptation initiatives are critical to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable households and help prevent communities from experiencing future severe food shortages. To this end we are working closely with the National Disaster Management Authority and providing officials with training on drought prediction and contingency planning. We are also working with drought-prone communities to build their awareness of the potential hazards they face, and then to draw up community risk reduction and adaptation plans. By doing this, we are helping families to create buffers against future shocks before they become a life-threatening crisis. Save the Children is encouraging children to participate actively in the design and implementation of these initiatives, since we know that children can be part of the solution to building communities that are more resilient to drought and other crises.

We are influencing national food security and livelihoods policy to benefit all children

Save the Children aims at delivering transformative change for children some of the poorest areas of Kenya directly through our food security and livelihoods projects. We are also working towards long-term change for all children across the country. We commission, compile and communicate research that provides evidence on opportunities to address hunger in Kenya effectively at national and local levels. By developing a strong evidence base using this research as well as findings from our programmes, we are able to provide critical analysis of current policies and programming approaches, stimulate debate, improve policy thinking and design more effective early warning and monitoring systems. We work within a wide range of national forums, such as the Kenya Food Security Steering Group and the Agricultural Sector Coordinating Unit and nutrition task forces at a county level. By having regular contact with relevant government officials and other key stakeholders, we are able to influence key policies such as the Kenya Food Security and Nutrition Policy, support the annual planning process and lobby for change that will have the greatest impact for children.

We are protecting families from hunger in an emergency

In an emergency, Save the Children dramatically scales up our food security and livelihoods work, so that the most affected families are supported to meet their basic food needs. We provide families with food vouchers and direct cash transfers to ensure they can have access to enough nutritious food and prevent malnutrition, while helping local markets to recover. In 2012, we supported the distribution of regular cash transfers to the poorest 14,000 families in Mandera. If another drought hits, we will be well placed to provide life-saving support to the most vulnerable children and their families without delay. In 2013, Save the Children through an integrated emergency response reached about 5,000 internally displaced persons in Mandera through provision of shelter and non-food items.

Our work to strengthen market price information systems for pastoralists will enable us to track the costs of staple food relative to livestock prices, which are key indicators of a looming drought. Using this market-based information, we can warn pastoralist communities in advance and advise them to sell livestock before a drought occurs. By knowing when a drought is likely to hit, we can also support the vaccination of remaining herds to ensure they remain healthy in lean times and preposition stocks of food and health supplies in case the threat of drought becomes a reality.



[1] World Bank (2008): Kenya Poverty and Inequality Assessment-Synthesis Report. Vol 1 Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit, Africa Region, Nairobi, Kenya

[2] Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 2008/2009

[3] Joint SMART survey by Islamic Relief Kenya and the Kenya Ministry of Health, June/July 2012