The county is currently classified in the ‘Stressed’ (IPC Phase 2) food security phase across all livelihood zones a deterioration from the long rains season where it was classified in the ‘Minimal’ (IPC Phase 1) phase. The Mbeere sub counties are dependent on the short rains as the main season for crop production. In the month of December 2016, 10 percent of the households in the mixed and marginal mixed livelihood zones had poor food consumption scores implying that household’s dietary diversity and frequency of food consumed was deteriorating. Reported severe acute malnutrition cases have increased from 99 to 178. The coping strategy index is currently 10 and 3 in marginal mixed and mixed farming livelihood zones respectively. Milk consumption at household is normal ranging between 0.25 – 0.75 litres in the marginal mixed farming and 0.5 l -1.5litres in the mixed farming livelihood zone.
Currently, food availability is reduced with household and county maize stocks stand at 17 and 37 percent of the long term average due to two consecutive poor seasons with the expected. Crop production is generally expected to be below average with maize, cowpeas and green grams crop yields are expected to be 10, 41 and 30 percent of the LTA. Cases of weevils and aphids attacks have been reported affecting mainly the cowpea and green-gram crops. Milk production has also reduced in the mixed farming zones where it was 0.5 -1 l/HH compared to the normal 2 and in the marginal mixed farming zones production was 0.25 - 0.75 l/HH compared to 1 litre.
Food access is generally constrained considering that food and cash crop production contribute to 50 percent of cash income in both livelihood zones and crop production is below average significantly reducing income from this source and consequently access to food. Maize prices in January were Ksh 43 per kilogram and 17 percent above the LTA of Ksh 37 caused by reduced availability at household level reducing the purchasing power. Milk prices were above average from Ksh 60 – 80 compared to the normal Ksh 80. Trekking distances to domestic water sources increased to 5 km from 3 km in the Marginal mixed farming zones of Makima and Kiambere and 0 – 2 km from 0 – 1 km in the mixed farming zones.
Food utilization deteriorated reducing individuals’ capacity to absorb required macro and micronutrients from consumed food. Proportion of children under five years of age at risk of malnutrition (MUAC <135 mm) in December 2016 was 5.6 percent compared to 4.1 percent in 2015 and the number of children under 5 years suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) doubled in 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. The fully immunized child (FIC) coverage for 2016 was 75 percent, lower than national target of 80 percent and a drop from 87 percent reported in 2015. Water borne related diseases are still a major health concern in the county due to poor sanitation and hygienic practices.
The major contributing factors to food insecurity in the county include; poor performance of the short rains, poor crop performance, increasing food prices, drying up of water sources and human – wildlife conflict.