Hunger in KenyaKenya is currently home to 46 million people, and more than 35% of Kenyans suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition each year, with 2.6 million facing a food insecurity crisis. The state of food insecurity in this country is serious, with the country ranking 86 out of 117 countries on the 2019 Global Hunger Index. Children are especially at risk, with slightly less than a third of those who are food insecure suffering from stunted growth.  This is one of the many common issues related to hunger and poor nutrition. The rampant hunger in Kenya is a dire situation. However, there are some efforts to address this crisis.

The Farming Issue

Nearly 75% of Kenyans rely on agriculture for all or part of their incomes. The industry makes up about a third of the Kenyan economy, but only one-fifth of the land in Kenya is suitable for farming. A lack of reliable irrigation forces farmers to rely on rain as their primary water source. Reliance on nature makes planting and harvesting unpredictable and risky. This, combined with the population boom in Kenya over the past 25 years, means that the food supply is limited at best and extremely vulnerable to weather patterns and natural disasters like droughts and floods.

Domestic farmers are the main food providers in Kenya. The industry needs a robust workforce to keep up with the heavy demands of an ever-increasing population. However, the younger generation is uninterested in farm work and current farmers are getting too old for the job. Conversely, lack of employment also perpetuates hunger in Kenya. Millions of Kenyans are unemployed or underpaid and many cannot afford to buy food in the first place. Poor infrastructure and high domestic taxes levied on farmers for transporting their goods are the cause of such steep food prices. These exorbitant transportation fees leave much of the population hungry.

Despite all of this, the issue of hunger in Kenya has generally improved over the past decades. Further, many organizations continue to battle this crisis and expand food access to the millions of struggling Kenyans.

World Vision

The Christian nonprofit World Vision tackles child poverty and injustice worldwide. The organization first branched out to Kenya in 2017. Upon arrival, World Vision volunteers saw villages suffering from drought and hunger. They noticed people eating animals like hyenas and vultures and mourning the loss of their livestock, the remains of which were everywhere.

In the first year of its project, World Vision reached 3.5 million individuals. The organization was able to provide clean water, health care and nutritional support. World Vision knows that hunger in Kenya is far from solved and does not plan on slowing down its efforts. The nonprofit hopes to expand water and nutrition access as a way to help alleviate the suffering in Kenya.

Action Against Hunger

The “world’s hunger specialist,” Action Against Hunger, is a nonprofit working “to end hunger in our lifetimes.” It provides global aid to children and families to treat and prevent malnutrition. The organization has worked in Kenya since 2002.

Its work has included implementing programs to assist refugees and improve health, water, sanitation and childcare. The nonprofit has been able to expand access to health treatments, screenings and services for those suffering from malnutrition. It also supported thousands of herders by providing livestock vaccinations and training animal health experts.

In 2019, the organization reached more than 1.9 million people with its nutrition and health programs and nearly 50,000 people with its water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives. Additionally, Action Against Hunger aided more than 40,000 people with its food security and livelihood programs. This all added up to more than 2 million people in 2019 alone, a significant effort for a team of only 43 employees.

Looking Ahead

Hunger in Kenya is a severe issue that has cost the lives and livelihoods of millions of individuals and families. Children are at severe risk of malnutrition and related diseases while the farming industry is struggling to provide even a portion of the country’s necessary food supply. Aggressive and comprehensive government or international intervention to shore up farmers and expand their capacity to produce are absent. It is organizations like World Vision and Action Against Hunger that have to pick up the slack. Fortunately, these organizations have been able to reach and save the lives of millions of Kenyans. The issue lives on, but the efforts of nonprofits continue to provide hope.

Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Kenya
Kenya is a country in North East Africa (also known as the Horn of Africa) located on the Indian Ocean coastline. The countries in the Horn of Africa have been frequently hit by droughts that lasted for decades. As a result of this, Kenya suffered and still suffers from extreme food shortages that lead to illnesses and in many cases to death. To understand Kenya’s struggles and progress, below are the top 10 facts about hunger in Kenya.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Kenya

  1. Kenya has a population of 46 million people. Of this number, 25 percent or 11.5 million people live in underdeveloped housing and suffer from a variety of harmful living conditions such as food insecurity and diseases. The people who are most vulnerable to food scarcity live in dry areas, which is about 80 percent of the land.
  2. The number one cause of death of children under five years old is malnutrition. According to the World Food Programme, 337,000 children under five years old suffer from malnutrition.
  3. Twenty-five percent of children in Kenya suffer from stunted growth due to poor nutrition.
  4. Food scarcity is nothing new to East Africa. According to World Vision, poor climate and instability are the main causes of East Africa’s hunger. Droughts are extremely common and affect food-production, which leads to malnutrition.
  5. Instability is a consequence of years of political and social conflicts that make prices and food affected. Climate Change News states that due to political opposition and a lack of tools to run a government smoothly, the annual food inflation in Kenya increased 18.6 percent in 2017.
  6. Between July 2011 and mid-2012, East Africa experienced a drought that was known as the worst in 60 years, leaving 13 million people affected with a severe food crisis in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Hundreds of thousands of Somali people escaped to Kenya and Ethiopia to seek food and shelter. This has put more stress on Kenya and Ethiopia as the two already crowded countries. Huffington Post reported that the overall death rate is about seven out of 10,000 people a day while the average crisis rate is usually two person per day.
  7. Fortunately, the number of people in Kenya affected by food insecurity has improved from 3.4 million in 2017 to 2.6 million in 2018. This significant improvement is a direct result of more rain and living necessities supplied to the people in need.
  8. While there are millions of people in Kenya that are still in need of help, health and nutrition services have been extended out to two million people.
  9. During droughts, food prices escalate. In Kenya, maize prices rose 30 percent. However, people are still able to purchase this life staple due to increased imports from Uganda.
  10. Africa has the most people living in extreme poverty and facing food shortages. Food shortages are so severe that many children cannot go to school because schools are forced to close. According to Save the Children organization, only 30 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls are enrolled in school during droughts, and only a few complete their education. In addition, 4.7 million children across East Africa are at risk of dropping out of school due to the drought’s impact. The Kenyan government promised to donate money for food aid but has only given 4,000 bags of maize that can last only for a week.

Food is a necessity to live but in Kenya food almost seems like a privilege since so many obstacles need to be faced in order to feed a family. Besides food shortages, Kenyans have to deal with a horrendous climate and an unstable government which creates a cycle of unfortunate events.

These top 10 facts about hunger in Kenya give an idea of the struggles these people have to face. Fortunately, Kenya continues to lift itself up out of poverty with the help from surrounding countries.

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in KenyaHunger in Kenya is a prominent issue, with more than 600,000 Kenyans in urgent need of food aid after the region was hit by a drought, which started in February when most farmers were preparing for planting season. The weather has dried up waterholes and rivers leading to crop failure.

The Kenyan government has promised to release 50 million Kenya shillings, or $5 million, to be used to purchase food aid, but the government has yet to release the funds. West Pokot deputy governor Titus Lotee said, “We have started distributing food but the 4,000 bags of maize is not enough,” and called on humanitarian organizations to help fight the hunger in Kenya.

Action Against Hunger has implemented a strategy for 2015–2017 in Kenya in order to address two main pillars: ending the drought emergency and addressing all forms of malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger has strengthened its approach to addressing health problems in Kenya by implementing programs in nutrition, food security, water, sanitation and hygiene. Thus far, 275,552 people have received nutritional support and 25,060 people have accessed safe water and sanitation.

Another charity, Feed the Children, provides access to food, water and schooling in four of Kenya’s counties. The organization focuses on the most vulnerable: malnourished children under the age of five, pregnant and lactating women, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Feed the Children has built water pans and rainwater harvesting systems, which can hold water for up to seven months after the rain stops for the year. The Australian government assisted Feed the Children in building 35 latrines in six schools and supplied 8,000-cubic-meter water tanks to seven schools.

The Feed Hungry Children in Kenya project is providing health clinics, where children are weighed and measured and given food supplements. Poor families are given a food ration of beans and maize each month.

In addition to the two organizations, the World Food Programme works with Feed the Children to serve regular meals to children in 170 schools throughout Kenya in hopes of mitigating the crisis.

These humanitarian organizations will work to tackle starvation and hunger in Kenya until the country’s food availability problem improves.

Jackie Venuti

Photo: Flickr