Acute Malnutrition

A woman gives water to her child from a tin at Manguto Village in North Horr, Marsabit County. Humanitarian agencies are now making rallying calls to redouble efforts against acute malnutrition in Marsabit. 

| Nicholus Komu | Nation Media Group

Acute malnutrition now a threat to Marsabit children

Marsabit County has always suffered from recurrent droughts, which recently became intermittent and alarming, with over 120,000 residents affected.

Humanitarian agencies are now making rallying calls to redouble efforts against acute malnutrition that threatens to surpass even the Global Acute Malnutrition rates of 15 percent.

The situation is dire, especially in Laisamis and North Horr sub-counties, said USAid Nawiri Marsabit branch manager Dida Ali.

He said short rains failed in 2018 and long rains in 2019.

The two sub-counties bore the brunt of the vagaries of drought, with over 18 percent acute malnutrition rates.

The most affected residents were expectant and nursing mothers, children under five years old, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The national government, county officials, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme, Red Cross, Direct Aid and others have been distributing relief food to vulnerable households but the need is far too great.

Assessments were underway to establish the exact number of the households affected by the surging acute malnutrition cases, said Upper Eastern Red Cross Manager Maurice Anyango.

He added that work was underway to help mitigate rising acute malnutrition cases.

Humanitarian agencies have been asked to join hands and avert looming human deaths if the situation persists.

Muslim Agencies cleric Sheik Ali Duba made a passionate appeal for continued support as several affected areas had not been unreached.

He blamed lack of urgent interventions as the biting famine was exacerbated by the vastness of the county and lack of proper road networks in most areas.

Muslim Agencies cleric Hajj Ibrahim Moshe said he had first-hand encounters with the grim situation during his visits across the county.

“When we met Dibo Galgallo, resident of Kalacha ward in North Horr sub-county, she said nursing mothers no longer have enough milk to breastfeed their babies due to undernutrition,” he said.

In these regions, pastoralists depend on livestock products such as milk and meat as staple foods, but with the massive loss of these animals to drought and a violent storm reported in North Horr and Dukana sub-counties, a majority of them are now left depending on well-wishers.

Mohamud Adan Bartor, from Laisamis, who sight-impaired, said people with disabilities were among those hit hardest by famine.

Similar lamentations were echoed by Julius Kinoti, who said some of the disabled were bedridden.

Pales Matacho, from Bulla-Haram village in Laisamis sub-county, also highlighted the plight of the elderly.

It is estimated that residents of North Horr, Dukana and Laisamis sub-counties alone had lost over 100,000 livestock due to drought and the storm that hit the region in January.

Kenya Red Cross Marsabit branch chairperson Adan Waqo estimated that herders across the county had lost over 80,000 animals as a result of the drought and the January storms.

Maikona Location Chief Guyo Elema reported that herders in his area alone lost over 10,000 livestock.

He added that of the 1,200 households in his jurisdiction, more than 70 percent were struggling to put food on the table.

In the Balesa area, Dukana sub-county, imam Guyo Ali recounted how residents lost over 20,000 goats and sheep, 4,000 camels, and 600 cows.

During their visit to Moyale sub-county on February 8, United Kenya resident coordinator Stephen Jackson called on all partners to redouble their efforts to save human lives.

FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol, for her part, called on all partners to change tack in tackling drought in Northern Kenya.

“What I have seen on the ground is unacceptable, since I came up close with the real plight of the livestock farmers in the villages. We have to change how we do things and act urgently before things get out of hand,” Ms Bethdol said.

A survey in December conducted by Unicef in collaboration with the National Drought Management Authority, Concern Worldwide and the county government indicated a Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence rate of 22.6 percent in North Horr and 20.8 percent in Laisamis.

The findings also showed an underweight prevalence rate of 28.1 percent in North Horr and 32.7 percent in Laisamis.

The stunting prevalence rate among children in North Horr was 22.6 percent and 29.1 percent in Laisamis.

The most prevalent illnesses related to malnutrition during this period were acute respiratory illness or cough in Laisamis (54.2 percent) and fever with chills in North Horr (51.2 percent).

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