Kenya: Survey finds severe malnutrition in fishing community

A World Vision nutrition survey in northwest Kenya has found malnutrition rates of 30 percent in some areas.
Natole, a fishing community in the southern zone of Turkana district, recorded the worst malnutrition rates in the survey, with 30 percent of children malnourished and showing signs of marasmus.

An earlier survey carried out by Oxfam in the eastern zone of Turkana found a malnutrition rate of 34.3%, indicating a crisis situation for the two zones of the district.

Commercial fishing is making the situation worse for the people in Natole. "Although the people of Natole live along Lake Turkana, they do not have access to the fish that come from the lake," said Lodwar ADP Manager Charles Otieno. He said most of the fish are ferried through the village to commercial dealers, who sell it in other districts higher profit.

The community is relying on hard palm tree fruits for food. At a rudimentary level they pick the fruit and eat off the covering. Otherwise, they hit off the hard cover and place the inner part of the fruit in water to soften it then crush it into a powder to make a meal called makoma. Unfortunately, if eaten in large quantities, makoma causes diarrhoea among adults and children.

The Drought Management Officer in Lodwar (Lodwar is the Turkana district capital), James Eyapan, explains, "The inability of the land to recover from the effects of the last drought leaves people more vulnerable."

He observed that the places where World Vision has helped introduce small-scale irrigation schemes, along the river banks in South Turkana, are doing better in terms of food supply.

World Vision is urgently negotiating with the Kenya government to provide food for those worst off. World Vision Canada has already committed 10% of the ADP budget to the emergency. Unicef is also assessing possibilities of partnering with agencies like World Vision, CCF, and Oxfam to intervene in the most affected parts of the district.

A recent assessment done jointly by World Vision, the Kenyan government, and other relief agencies (Unicef, Oxfam GB, World Concern and World Food Program) found over one million people across the country in need of food assistance.

The assessment, coordinated by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group, in which World Vision is a member, found substantial food insecurity resulting from consecutive years of poor rainfall, declining income options, depletion of livestock herds and increased food prices.

The findings are expected to form the basis of a national intervention and contingency plan to address the food shortages.