Three of the largest aid agencies working in North East Kenya are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis in the region as rates of malnutrition continue to rise.
Surveys conducted by Islamic Relief, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children UK have revealed a significant increase in malnutrition in Mandera District over the last 12 months.
Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in Mandera currently stands at 30 per cent, double the World Health Organisation's accepted emergency threshold. Children under five are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition which can also lead to other health problems.
Three consecutive years of poor rains have caused shortages of food and water in the region. In addition, the rising cost of food means that many people are unable to afford to buy what is available at market. Consequently the majority of the population are now reliant on aid for their survival.
“What we’re seeing is an extremely troubling situation: the persistent dry spell has driven livestock out of the region, creating shortages of milk amongst the other food varieties that the population depends on,” states Sophie Bruas, Country Director for Action Against Hunger. “If no urgent assistance is found, I am afraid the situation will get out of hand.”
The aid agencies also note that admissions to Supplementary Feeding Programmes and Out Patient Therapeutic programmes have increased by between 40 and 100 per cent in Mandera.
"Even without the new data, the sheer number of new malnutrition cases that we have seen admitted to Feeding Centres is alarming and indicates that the emergency has become acute," said Yesuf Abdella, Country Representative from Islamic Relief Kenya.
"Projects that tackle malnutrition have long been under funded in this region, but we are witnessing a dramatic increase in the numbers of children suffering from malnutrition and we need help."
Islamic Relief, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children are calling for:
Donors to make increased funding available to fill the current gaps.
Continued and expanded nutrition treatment for children with acute malnutrition in the whole district.
Comprehensive support for curative and preventative health services in the greater Mandera district.
An increase in the general food ration, which is currently inadequate in terms of quantity, quality, and coverage. At a minimum, the protection ration to families with malnourished children is essential if the nutritional treatment is to have any significant impact.
Assurances that drought-affected areas will have increased access to emergency water supplies.
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