Turkana malnutrition now at five-year high

A nurse examines a child suffering from malnutrition in Turkana. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A nurse examines a child suffering from malnutrition in Turkana. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Malnutrition prevalence has hit a five-year high in Turkana County owing to deteriorating food security in the region.

A Unicef status report published in July indicates that three of the four sub-counties in Turkana reported acute malnutrition prevalence rate of more than 30 per cent. 

Turkana South had the highest prevalence of 37 per cent while the North and Central regions registered 34.1 per cent and 31.4 per cent occurrence, respectively.

Turkana West had the lowest incidence at 23.4 per cent. The study shows that malnutrition has particularly risen sharply in the last five months.

“Equally worrying are the very high levels of severe acute malnutrition, ranging from six per cent prevalence in Turkana West to 12 per cent in Turkana South,” the report said.

Infants, children, adolescents and women are at the greatest risk of malnutrition.

According to World Health Organisation lack of well-balanced diet that includes plant based foods (vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates) and animal sourced foods (milk, eggs, fish and meat), makes children more vulnerable to disease and death.

Lack of proper nutrition leads to wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height for age) and being generally underweight, which puts especially children at risk of diseases and death.

The WHO gives nations a short window of about 1,000 days (from conception until age two) to ensure that children get all required nutrients for proper brain development.

The nutrition situation in drought-affected counties, the report said, will continue to deteriorate and affect nine arid counties; Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Baringo Samburu, Garissa and West Pokot.

Although vegetation cover and water availability have improved in a few arid and semi-arid regions that have received rainfall, the situation still remains dire especially in Isiolo and parts of Wajir, Turkana and Tana River counties.