Not enough food to go round

A woman selling groceries in a market, Nairobi, Kenya 2008.Food insecurity in Kenya has been compounded by the insufficient long rains and high food prices.
(Julius Mwelu/IRIN)

At least five million Kenyans in urban slums and rural areas are highly food insecure, according to the findings of a national food security assessment.

"About 1.38 million people in rural areas will not be able to meet their minimum food requirements in the coming six months without external support," said the report released 31 August by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG).

Preliminary indications revealed that between 3.5 and 4.1 million slum-dwellers were highly insecure because of rising food prices and declining supplies, up from around three million in 2007.

The KFSSG comprises representatives from the government, UN agencies, international and local NGOs.

The number of highly food insecure people included an estimated 300,000 former and current internally displaced persons (IDPs) whose food security remains precarious, the report said.

Worst affected are pastoral areas such as Turkana, Mandera, Samburu, Baringo, Marsabit, Wajir, Moyale and Garissa in the Northern and Rift Valley regions. Others include the agro-pastoral and the marginal agricultural areas of Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, Mbeere, Malindi, Kilifi, Kwale; and Tana River in the eastern and coastal parts of the country.

“The government recognises that the food situation has deteriorated,” said James Oduor, an official from the Ministry of State for the Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid lands, on 11 September.

“We have been providing food for 850,000 people in ASAL [Arid and Semi-Arid Lands] areas and now we have to support 1.38 million,” he said.

Malnutrition rates in the affected areas have gone up.

“Child malnutrition rates are above critical levels in both Mandera and Turkana,” Gabrielle Menezes, an information officer at the UN World Food Programme (WFP), told IRIN by telephone. “GAM [Global Acute Malnutrition] rates are as high as 22 percent in Mandera, and 29 [percent] in Turkana.”

''About 1.38 million people in rural areas will not be able to meet their minimum food requirements in the coming six months without external support''

Mandera has been facing perennial food insecurity as a result of extreme climate, characterised by a succession of droughts and floods over the past years.

According to the KFSSG report, the current food insecurity is due to “the poor performance of the long-rains season compounded by… other food security factors including the spread of peste de petits ruminants (PPR) livestock disease; heightened food and non-food prices; rising conflict and a below normal short rains season.”

“Vaccination against PPR is ongoing,” Oduor added.

A strengthening of disease and nutrition surveillance, as well as the up-scaling of vitamin A and immunization coverage, will be required according to the report.

So far the government is providing therapeutic and supplementary feeding for children and lactating mothers. The government is also planning to educate local communities on proper infant nutrition.

The government is trucking water in to some of the drought affected areas, and is planning to construct dams and shallow wells as long term interventions.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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