UN seeks Sh10bn to help fight starvation

Monday September 11 2017

A girl and her mother lead their donkeys laden with luggage as they moved from Lokichar to Keekunyuk in Turkana County in search of water. Turkana is facing severe starvation with statistics showing that 37% of residents are malnourished, which is above tolerable levels. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A girl and her mother lead their donkeys laden with luggage as they moved from Lokichar to Keekunyuk in Turkana County in search of water. Turkana is facing severe starvation with statistics showing that 37% of residents are malnourished, which is above tolerable levels. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By VERAH OKEYO
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The United Nations is appealing for $106 million (Sh10.9 billion) to save 5.6 million people in 11 counties from starving.

In a video uploaded on YouTube, UN resident coordinator in Kenya Siddhartha “Sid” Chatterjee appealed for support to aid government efforts to provide food to communities that are already vulnerable.

One of the counties is Turkana whose level of acute malnutrition has reached 37 per cent, more than twice the tolerable levels of 15 per cent.

A press briefing from UNDP said that of the 5.6 million— which is 12 per cent of Kenya’s entire population— that have been affected, 2.6 million face severe food insecurity.

Another 500,000 are categorised as “emergency”, on the brink of starvation and about 370,000 children need urgent treatment for acute malnutrition.

URGENT TREATMENT

While Mr Chatterjee did not go into the details of what the “urgent treatment” entails, the procedure that has been used to avert possible deaths of children in the northern region is feeding children with a sweet paste called Plumpy’nut.

Plumpy’nut is a mixture of peanut butter, vegetable oils, powdered milk, sugar, vitamins and minerals fed to malnourished children and they can regain more than 10 per cent of their body weight in a few days.

After a week or two, the children’s hunger-ravaged digestive system will be strong enough, so that after a week they can move to being fed on soya blend with corn flour.

Studies on malnutrition indicate that even if starvation is averted, it is inevitable that some of the children will have possible brain damage and be stunted.

SECOND ATTEMPT

Already, Kenya’s Demographic Health Survey reports that one in every four children (26 per cent) are undernourished.

Mr Chatterjee said that this is the second appeal made on behalf of Kenya; the first was in March, however, only 43 per cent of the monies required was raised, prompting the UN to make another appeal.

The money requested will be added to Kenya’s Sh12.7 billion ($ 124 million) that was set aside in the government’s effort to tackle ravaging effects of the drought.

He urged the international community to make haste  because the government’s response will be slower given the political climate in the country.