Concern escalates its operations in drought-stricken Kenya as child malnutrition levels soar

Concern Worldwide is ramping up its operations in drought-stricken Turkana in northern Kenya, in response to extremely critical levels of malnutrition among young children and predictions that these levels will remain high for the coming months.

10 September 2019
Atiir Kataboi with five of her seven children, Amoni, Ekalale, Arot, Imzee and Ebei, outside their home in Turkana, northern Kenya. Photo: Gavin Douglas / Concern Worldwide.

Turkana, in north-western Kenya, has experienced drought conditions since 2017. The Kenyan Ministry of Health estimates that over 78,000 children aged under-five are malnourished in the county, with almost 19,000 of these severely malnourished.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that up to two million people in Kenya currently need food as a result of the lack of rain. The latest rainy season has just ended with below average rainfall and no further rain is due until the next wet season in October.  Acute malnutrition levels are expected to remain high until then, the Kenyan Ministry of Health has warned.

The drought has taken a severe toll on the pastoralist families living in Turkana who depend on their goats for milk and meat.  Mother-of-nine Ng’ikaro Ekiru once had 100 goats but now has just five following the successive droughts.  The lack of rain means they are not currently producing milk.  Three of her children are severely malnourished.  She is feeding them fruit from local bushes and has resorted to roasting the animal hides she was using as mats in her hut to feed her family.

“If I do not get help from the government and partners like Concern, definitely I am going to perish,” she said.

As part of its expanded operations Concern is supporting 36 mobile health clinics for malnourished children and pregnant mothers, in some of the most remote and hardest hit parts of the county.

In addition, it is launching a direct cash transfer system for almost 5,500 households.  The cash will enable them to buy food and other essential items to survive the current drought.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.