Kenya: Fighting Malnutrition In Rural Communities

Earlier this month, a 4×4 vehicle loaded with scales, a height measure, upper arm circumference tapes and food supplies departed from a hospital. Its destination was a Doctors of the World outreach clinic in Isiolo county, Kenya where the reported cases of malnutrition have risen quicker than anywhere else in the country.

On February 10th, 2017 the Kenyan government declared a state of emergency due to drought, with an estimated 4 million people facing severe food shortages. The majority of these communities lie in rural areas of Kenya, such as Isiolo County, where lower than average amounts of rainfall have seriously affected agriculture and food productivity.

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In response to the extreme drought conditions, Doctors of the World has launched an emergency response in Isiolo, specifically in areas not yet receiving any humanitarian aid. At our outreach clinics, we are providing malnutrition screening and treatment, while referring severely malnourished people to local hospitals. Our teams work in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and the Northern Rangelands Trust (a local NGO) to identify local communities in need.

"When a woman is pregnant, they say her grave is open" - Muna, a Doctors of the World nurse

We are also focusing our treatment efforts on pregnant women and children under 5. Muna, our community health nurse who has been working with Doctors of the World in Isiolo County Hospital, has told us stories of people walking several days to receive medical attention – and many don’t make it. Often pregnant women are the hardest hit by malnutrition. As Muna was told: “When a woman is pregnant, they say her grave is open.”

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Our UK colleague, Lucy Coley, who recently visited our program in Kenya, described our current outreach activities: “We are working in two very small villages, Ngaredare and Gotu, where our team does mass screenings to identify and treat malnourished children and pregnant women. Gotu is 80km away from the nearest health facility, and there are no paved roads or vehicles here. Without Doctors of the World bringing support into these communities, these people would simply not receive any assistance.”

In Kenya, we aim to prevent further deterioration in people’s health in severely drought affected areas of Isiolo County, while at the same time monitoring and responding to any new outbreaks of malnutrition. As Lucy describes, “We’ve hired a brilliant team of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and community health workers – both Kenyan and international volunteers – who are now on the ground conducting outreach in Isiolo.”

By working both within and alongside these communities, we hope to mitigate the ongoing threat of famine that 20 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa are currently facing. For the latest information on malnutrition in Kenya and other parts of Africa, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.