Drought: Over one million Kenyans risk acute malnutrition: report

The prolonged drought in the country has severely decimated the country’s food security situation, with an estimated six million people across 32 counties affected.

Arid and Semi-Arid (ASAL) counties have been hit the hardest, with the population facing acute food insecurity rising to 4.4 million from the 3.5 million people identified in July 2022 according to the latest report. 

The 32 counties are; Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, Baringo, West Pokot, Laikipia, Embu (Mbeere), Meru (Meru North), Nyeri (Kieni), Kitui, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka), Kajiado, Narok, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu. 

The others are Migori, Siaya, Homa Bay, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nakuru, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, and Machakos. 

The report prepared by the Ministry of East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) and Regional Development, shows the nutrition status of children and women has also worsened, with almost one million children under five years and 142,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers requiring life-saving treatment for malnutrition.

Over 970,000 children aged 6 to 59 months and 142,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are currently malnourished compared to 884,000 reported in July 2022. These women and children are in urgent need of life-saving treatment for malnutrition,” reads the report in part. 

Women in; Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Isiolo, Garissa, Baringo, and Samburu are the worst affected, with critical malnutrition levels.

Despite ongoing interventions, including relief food distribution, emergency cash transfers, mass screening, and health and nutrition outreaches, the situation could worsen further in the next three months. The continued multi-sector response to mitigate the deterioration of the prevailing situation remains a priority.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, most parts of the arid pastoral northwest and northeast counties, as well as the southeast marginal agricultural counties of Kitui and Makueni, are facing ‘Crisis’ food insecurity (IPC Phase 3), while the coastal marginal agricultural counties and agro-pastoral counties are experiencing ‘Stressed’ food security status (IPC Phase 2).

Households classified in IPC Phase 3 or worse require urgent humanitarian assistance to close food consumption gaps and save lives and livelihoods. The situation is likely to worsen during the projected period between March and June 2023, with Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa counties likely to slide into Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

The assessment has identified drought response priority areas for closer surveillance and additional support in various sectors from March to May 2023 at an estimated cost of KES 15.35 billion.

According to the report, the money will be directed to enhanced food assistance and cash transfers, health and nutrition interventions, sustained support for water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), livestock feeding and off-take, further extension of veterinary services, school feeding programs, support for peace and security initiatives, and drought recovery support to the agriculture sector are some of the interventions required.


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