National Food Emergency Grips Kenya
The IRC’s survey in Kakuma division, Turkana north, found that almost 40% of local people were surviving on just one meal a day. Malnutrition rates among children under the age of five were 22% — that’s much higher than the 15% rate which the World Health Organization uses to determine an emergency situation.
“People in Kakuma are struggling to cope with a number of factors including prolonged and severe drought, livestock disease and insecurity caused by rising numbers of violent cattle raids in recent months,” says Dr. Vincent Kahi, the IRC’s health coordinator in Kenya. “The situation there really is desperate with people forced to scavenge for whatever food they can find in the bush. We’ve heard reports of people eating leaves and even rats.”
Kenya has suffered successive poor rainy seasons, meaning that people have exhausted any food or cash reserves they might have once had. They now have nothing to fall back on and are spending all their time and energy searching for something to eat. Rising food prices are further compounding the situation, with everyday staples such as maize jumping anywhere from 50% to 100% in price.
Peter Mutanda, the IRC’s HIV/AIDS coordinator in Kenya, says: “We try and supply vulnerable people — such as those living with HIV/AIDS — with food supplements such as fortified cereals, oil and flour, but the price of such foods has more than doubled over the past year, making it harder to meet demand. This has a severe impact on patients as they rely on a good quality diet to help them stay in good health and stomach the strong drugs they have to take every day.”
The IRC has also seen the impact of the food crisis in Trans Nzoia District, western Kenya, an area rocked by violence in 2007 following disputed presidential elections. More than 1,100 people were killed during the clashes and a further 350,000 were displaced from their homes. Many people lost everything — their homes, their farms, their crops and their farming tools. They subsequently struggled to bring in a good harvest, further exacerbating the national food shortage.
Take 54-year-old Rhoda Mukamba, for example. Rhoda lost her husband and her home when mobs attacked her village last January. In the summer, Rhoda managed to plant a maize crop, thanks to seeds, tools and fertilizer donated by the IRC. But the harvest was small because the violence delayed the planting season. She says: “The crop might not be enough to last until the next farming season. I hope the government or someone will help us with food and fertilizer.”To Help:
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