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3 die of malnutrition

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – Three children have died of malnutrition in the last five days as a result of the ongoing food crisis, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) reported on Wednesday.

Secretary General Abbas Gullet said 27 others were admitted at the Wajir and Mwingi district hospitals with severe malnutrition.

“One of the children aged 13 died in Mwingi district after eating wild fruits due to the prevailing hunger,” he said. “12 of the children are admitted with severe malnutrition in Wajir hospital and 15 others are admitted at Mwingi hospital and have been put under high protein diet.”

Mr Gullet expressed concern over the levels of malnutrition, disease prevalence and access to health services reaching emergency threshold.

He said surveys conducted by different groups in pastoralist districts of Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera suggest that rates of child malnutrition remained unacceptably high due to the current food crisis.

Speaking during the launch of a Sh1.9 billion joint food appeal with the Media Owners Association (MOA), Mr Gullet said the fund would supplement ongoing government efforts to feed hungry Kenyans.

He said the organisation targeted to feed about 2.5 million Kenyans who are worst hit by the crisis.

“We are just at the beginning of the crisis. We know that normally the main planting season is during the short rainy season which failed,” he said.

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“We have to wait for the next one in October and November this year meaning that the harvests- if there are good rains- will be in February or March next year, so we are talking of another 15 months of people needing food aid.”

MOA Chairman, Linus Gitahi, said with the right incentives and policies, the country could get out of the current situation.

“When you look at countries like Israel or you go to some of our shopping places, you find food that is coming from the Arid and Semi- Arid areas and I think that it is the high time that beyond this disaster, we should go a step further and ask ourselves what is it that we need to do as Kenyans to ensure that we never talk of this kind of stuff again,” Mr Gitahi said.

“Our good Lord is going to bring rain very shortly and you know what, we are going to be talking about floods and we will be doing exactly the same thing of appealing for food aid,” he added.

Mr Gitahi blamed the lack of a long term strategy to the recurrence of food crisis situations.

“If we have to realise vision 2030, we need to have an emergency about creating a strategy to ensure that we feed ourselves,” he said.

Mr Gullet said KRCS was also providing food supplies to 150,000 Kenyans who were displaced during the post poll crisis. It is still feeding another 600,000 Kenyans who have been faced with food deficit because of prolonged drought in the last two years.

At the same time, Special Programmes Permanent Secretary Ali Dawood said the World Food Program had pledged to support 3.2 million people faced with starvation.

“This is in addition to the 1.4 million people who are currently under the emergency operation program which leaves us with approximately five million people that the government will still have to feed,” the PS said.

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The KRCS also plans to provide relief supplies to half a million school going children, provide basic community health care and provide access to safe water, sanitation and refuse management to an estimated one million individuals.


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