14 million Kenyans undernourished as food crisis soars

Hunger-ravaged elderly women at a river bed at Kamusuk, Tiaty East after walking for a long distance in search of wild fruits locally known as sorich, which the locals have resorted to for survival.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • According to the report, whose data was collected between 2019 and 2021, about 14.4 million Kenyans are undernourished.
  • The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to about 828 million in 2021, an increase of 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The daily cost and affordability of a healthy diet in Kenya have grown by Sh14 per person from 2017 to 2020.

Kenya is one of the 63 countries in the world with the highest number of undernourished people, the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report says.

According to the report, whose data was collected between 2019 and 2021, about 14.4 million Kenyans are undernourished.

It says the number of severely food insecure people in the country in the period was 14 million.

The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to about 828 million in 2021, an increase of 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The increase in hunger in 2021 reflects exacerbated inequalities across and within countries due to an unequal pattern of economic recovery among nations and unrecovered income losses in those most affected by the pandemic,” the report says.

MDG Goal

With only eight years to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number two on zero hunger, the report shows the need to increase efforts with the little time left.

“This year’s report should dispel any doubts that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. We are only eight years away from 2030, the SDG target year,” the document says.

“The distance to reach many of the SDG 2 targets is growing wider, while the time to 2030 is narrowing. There are efforts to make progress towards SDG 2 yet they are proving insufficient in the face of a more challenging and uncertain context.”

The daily cost and affordability of a healthy diet in Kenya have grown by Sh14 per person from 2017 to 2020.

In 2017, for instance, a Kenyan would spend about Sh336 to afford a healthy meal but the figure had risen to Sh350 in 2020.

However, not many Kenyans can afford a healthy diet.

As of 2020, about 43.6 million Kenyans could not afford a healthy diet yet the country’s population is about 53 million.

This information comes as food prices shoot through the roof while some regions are experiencing bouts of dry spells resulting in even more hunger.

Millions starving

In April, Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said about three million Kenyans, especially in arid and semi-arid lands, were facing starvation due to drought.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said about 11 million people die every year as a result of unhealthy diets.

“Rising food prices mean this will only get worse. WHO supports countries’ efforts to improve food systems through taxing unhealthy foods and subsidising healthy options, protecting children from harmful marketing and ensuring clear nutrition labels,” he said.

“We must work together to achieve the 2030 global nutrition targets, to fight hunger and malnutrition and to ensure food is a source of health for all.”

David Beasley, the World Food Programme Executive Director, said in a video posted on his Twitter feed that there is a need for urgent practical solutions to save people from biting hunger.

“The toxic combination of conflict, Covid-19 and climate change has devastated families the world over,” Beasley said.

“Now, the Ukraine war is driving food and fuel costs higher and even more people are going hungry. Some 345 million people face starvation. We must act now to save lives.”

In another statement, he said the numbers would skyrocket in the coming months if no action is taken.

“The global price increases in food, fuel and fertiliser we are witnessing as a result of the crisis in Ukraine threaten to push countries into famine,” he said.

“The results will be destabilisation, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe,” he said.

Food and Agriculture Organisations Director-General Qu Dongyu says low-income countries where agriculture is key to the economy, jobs and rural livelihoods have little public resources to repurpose.

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