The long rains food security assessment was carried out in Meru County (Meru North) covering six semi-arid sub counties; Igembe North, Igembe Central, Igembe South, Tigania East, Tigania West, and Buuri. The assessment was done by the Kenya Food Security Steering group in conjunction with the County Steering group. The main objective of the long rains assessment was to develop an objective, evidence–based and transparent food and nutrition security situation analysis following the March-April- May (MAM) 2019 rains.
The below average 2019 long rains was the main driver of food insecurity in Meru North.
The County received 50-75 percent of normal rains which was characterized by poor temporal and uneven spatial distribution, late onset and normal cessation. The rainfall received was not adequate for forage regeneration and good crop performance. Other drivers of food and nutrition insecurity were; resource-based conflicts; land conflict in the border of Igembe and neighbouring Tharaka Nithi County and presence of endemic pests and diseases for both crops and livestock. Livestock body condition was ranging from good to fair in rainfed and agro-pastoral livelihood zones. Distance to water sources was above normal at 10-15 Kilometers compared to the long-term average of 10km and households water consumption was within normal 10- 15 litres of water per person per day in the agro-pastoral livelihood zones while in the mixed farming and the rain-fed cropping livelihood zones consumption was at 17-20 litres per person per day thus meeting the SPHERE standards.
All major markets were operational in the County and terms of trade were unfavourable compared to long term mean as evidenced by the sale of one goat which could be exchanged with 81 kilograms of maize in July compared to 106 during normal season.
Major illnesses among children under five years in the County included upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), diarrhoea and malaria. There was a decline of URTI by 10 percent due to the intensified health education promotion sessions at the community level. Fully immunized Children was at 65.5 percent while that of vitamin A coverage was at 58 percent which was below the national target of 80 percent. Latrine coverage was high at 95 percent.
The proportion of household with acceptable food consumption score (FCS) was about 29 and 97 percent in agro- pastoral and rain-fed livelihood zones. The mean county coping strategy index was 14.6 indicating that households are utilizing consumption based coping strategies more frequently than normal such as skipping meals, reduce portion of meal size, borrowing reliance and eating less preferred foods. Nutrition status was acceptable based on the trends of the mid upper arm circumference of children at risk of malnutrition which was 18.7 percent. Under five mortality rate was 0.07 per 10,000 live births while the crude mortality rate (CMR) are 0.13per 10,000 persons per day. The indicative food security phase classification in the Meru North is “stressed” (IPC Phase 2) with the agro pastoral livelihood zones in “Crisis” (IPC phase 3).