May 26, 2017
Kenya: Fighting Malnutrition In Rural Communities
Crop failures brought on by climate change, combined with conflicts that have forced entire villages from their land, have caused the onset of famine in four countries across Africa and the Middle East. An estimated 20 million people – including 1.4 million children – are already suffering from malnutrition, and if the global community fails to act, the ongoing food shortages and widespread poverty in these countries will cause unthinkable suffering and unnecessary deaths.
As a member organization of Consortium 12-12, a Belgian non-profit platform, Doctors of the World is working to distribute food and water, provide medical care, improve hygiene and strengthen the agricultural capabilities of these communities in three of the famine-affected countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Kenya. The crisis is urgent, complex and vast. Without swift action, alarming food shortages in Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda, and Niger, could also spiral into crisis.
Since 2014, the north eastern state of Borno in Nigeria has been struggling to contain the extremist group known as Boko Haram. Over 20,000 people have died as a result of the insurgency and 2.6 million have been displaced. The medical needs in Nigeria are immense: 30% of medical facilities have been destroyed in the conflict. Since 2016, we have operated two mobile clinics in Borno state. We provide primary medical care to displaced communities and malnutrition treatment to children and pregnant women.
After observing the situation, Jean-Francois added, “The population needs clean water, food and shelter. The situation is alarming and access to food is at serious risk, because people can no longer fish or breed cattle”. Doctors of the World has sent 10 tons of equipment to the area, but far more aid is needed.
In response to the hunger crisis we have launched multiple mobile units known as Outreach Therapeutic Programs, where we detect and treat malnourished children under the age of 5. In 2 weeks, we screened 582 children at these units and found that over 50 were suffering from malnutrition. We are currently providing access to primary care in 4 IDP camps and supporting 2 healthcare centers in Maiduguri.
Somalia has been plagued by civil war for over 20 years and 6.2 million people currently live without food security. Doctors of the World has been working in the town of Bosaso in Northern Somalia in Puntland since 2011. There are currently 60,000 displaced people in Bosaso, including 3,000 in the rural areas surrounding the town. Puntland is currently experiencing drought conditions that are expected to affect over 150,000 people.
As drought conditions worsen, there has been a sharp increase in cases of malnutrition, AWD (Acute Watery Diarrhea), and cholera amongst these communities. It is estimated that 363,000 children are currently malnourished in Somalia.
In response to the crisis, we are doubling our capacity in Puntland, and have added two new mobile units to screen for malnutrition. According to Beatriz Valbuena, our General Coordinator in Somalia, “The last remaining organization in this region had to call back its two mobile teams due to budgetary reasons. As a result, there were only three mobile teams left in the whole Bosaso region. The women, children and men in these areas have no way to get to places where they can be treated, and we are transporting the severely undernourished people by ambulance to our health centers, all free of charge.”
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.
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. We are also focusing our treatment efforts on pregnant women and children under 5. By working both within and alongside these Kenyan communities, we hope to mitigate the ongoing threat of famine.