The humanitarian situation in Kenya has deteriorated rapidly due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, desert locusts, recurrent waterborne disease outbreaks, flooding and slow recovery from the 2019 drought. Access to basic social services is limited for vulnerable populations, particularly women and children.1 Kenya also hosts over 498,000 refugees and asylum seekers (54 per cent children).2 The pandemic has disrupted critical health services and negatively impacted child and maternal health and nutrition indicators.3 School closures and reduced family incomes have exacerbated child protection needs, disrupted learning for 16.1 million children4 and increased risks of gender-based violence for children and women. Malnutrition levels remain high: Global acute malnutrition rates exceed 15 per cent in arid areas.5
UNICEF requests US$32.7 million to address the critical needs of children and women in Kenya in 2021 through advocacy, coordination, capacity building and the implementation of life-saving and protective interventions.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
The humanitarian situation in Kenya has deteriorated rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, slow recovery from the 2019 drought, a desert locust invasion, massive floods and disease outbreaks such as cholera, malaria and respiratory illness.10 These challenges have limited access to basic social services for vulnerable populations.
Malnutrition levels remain high, with emergency global acute malnutrition levels at 15 per cent in arid areas. Over 531,000 children aged 6 to 59 months need treatment for acute malnutrition in Kenya, including nearly 344,000 children in arid and semi-arid counties.11
COVID-19 continues to negatively impact child and maternal health indicators. Critical health and nutrition services have been disrupted due to fears of contracting COVID-19, social stigma and lack of support for health workers.12 Over 300,000 children, adolescents and pregnant women living with HIV require uninterrupted access to life-saving treatment in the COVID-19 context.13 Pandemic containment measures have left nearly 53 per cent of children living in multidimensional poverty in 2020, compared with 36 per cent nationally. 14 In addition, reports of violence, abuse and exploitation of children and women are on the rise.15 Mandatory school closures due to COVID-19, from March 2020 through January 2021, have affected nearly 16.1 million children (2.7 million in early childhood development; 10.1 million in primary school and 3.3 million in secondary school).16 Children have experienced unprecedented interruptions to learning and are facing heightened risks for gender-based violence, abuse, teen pregnancy, female genital mutilation and child labour. 17 Children in arid counties, refugee camps and urban informal settlements are the most vulnerable. Three quarters of children have only limited access to available remote learning platforms and psychosocial support.18 The strong rainy season that took place between March and May 2020 resulted in massive flooding and landslides that affected 233,000 people and left 116,000 displaced.19 The belowaverage rainfall forecasted for late 2020 and early 2021 due to La Niña are expected to drive food insecurity, 20 increase water scarcity and give rise to disease outbreaks.21 Kenya also hosts over 498,000 refugees and asylum seekers (54 per cent children).22 The Kenya refugee operation is affected by political developments and the humanitarian situation in the region, mainly in Somalia and South Sudan. The potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camps will increase the number of unaccompanied children and affect the provision of essential social services to vulnerable host communities.23