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Kenya: Malnutrition levels in northeast stubbornly high

A mother and her babies who are recovering from malnutrition at a therapeutic feeding centre in Mandera town, Kenya. Photo: John Nyaga/IRIN.[NAIROBI] Malnutrition levels in pastoralist districts of northeastern Kenya have remained high, despite recent rains that boosted livestock productivity, the mainstay of the local economy, officials said.

"There could have been improvements in the nutrition situation for individuals, but it will be difficult to see an impact at population level, given the various factors that affect nutrition," said the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kenya.

The Ministry of Health and its partners recently found Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) levels above the UN World Health Organization's 15 percent emergency threshold in Mandera Central Districts, Wajir South and Wajir East. Mandera West recorded GAM rates above 25 percent.

"Due to the high illiteracy levels that characterize this region, most people, especially women, [do not] ensure that children receive a balanced diet. This makes malnutrition a [common] occurrence," the ActionAid Kenya northeast region coordinator, Enrico Eminae, told IRIN.

This view was echoed by the Kenya Food Security Outlook for August report: "Improvements in household food security have not translated into a decisive reduction in rates of child malnutrition in the northeastern districts."

Eminae called for alternative income sources and a change in eating habits. "To generate income, milk, beans, green-grams and eggs are sold to buy maize, wheat flour and rice. In the process all nutritious food is sold to buy and consume only starch," he said. "Most people in this region prefer foods that can be prepared with the least effort, time and water. These are mainly starches, [such as] corn flour, rice, spaghetti and wheat flour."

Because livestock numbers have gone down, the pastoralists no longer have the milk, meat and blood that used to constitute their diet. Health facilities are also few and far between. Water remains scarce and migrating herds mean children are left without access to milk.

"The biggest problem in this region is continued poor development, which is best seen in the lack of and deterioration of infrastructure and services," noted Benoit Collin, head of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Disaster Risk Reduction programme. "One approach to the complex problem in this region is to increase availability and access to natural resources, especially water."

According to WFP Kenya, disease "and malnutrition have a synergy, such that an increase in one will also lead to an increase in the other".

© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis: http://www.IRINnews.org

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Lar Boland: Solar Grandmothers

Solar GrandmothersPuppetry knows no language barrierFrom student to master
Solar GrandmothersTogoaliseAkouavi
HotitodeMialo TassiHailed by the chief
Student to master 2Going solarMialo Tassi
AkouaviInstalling panels for a clinicSolar power for the clinic
Life in Agome SevahThe river MonoTrade across the Mono
FishingPetrolLife in Agome Sevah
VeteranBuildingLight
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Solar Grandmothers

Supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, Photojournalist Lar Boland documented the solar technology training of 4 Grandmothers (pictured with mentor) at Rajasthan's Barefoot College and their return to Togo.

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Puppetry knows no language bar

Puppetry is used for training at the Barefoot College as many of the women being trained are illiterate. Photo: Lar Boland.

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From student to master

An Indian instructor who herself trained at the Barefoot College demonstrates the working of electronic panels to the Togolese solar grandmothers. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Solar Grandmothers

A trainee working on the installation of a mobile solar lamp. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Togoalise

  Togoalise is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Akouavi

Akouavi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Hotitode

Hotitode is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Hailed by the chief

On their return to Agome Sevah, the Solar Grandmothers are greeted by the Chief of the village. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Student to master 2

Having returned to Agome Sevah after a six month training period at the Barefoot College, the Solar Grandmothers set about training others at their workshop. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Going solar

A group of Solar Grandmothers and helpers on their way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agame Sevah, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Mialo Tassi

Mialo Tassi, a Solar Grandmother, on her way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Akouavi

Akouavi, a Solar Grandmother from Agome Sevah erecting solar panels at a small village home. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Installing panels for a clinic

Solar Grandmothers outside a newly built clinic which they are about to solar electrify. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Solar power for the clinic

Solar Grandmothers install solar panels on the roof of the newly built clinic in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Life in Agome Sevah

A family from the rural village of Agome Sevah have their daily wash in the Mono river which seperates Togo from Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

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The river Mono

The much used Mono river which divides Togo and Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Trade across the Mono

The river Mono between Togo and Benin is regularily crossed by traders. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Fishing

Children fishing in the Mono River. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Petrol

Petrol bought at a reduced price in Benin, and smuggled across the Mono river, is later sold on the streets of Togo, such as the capital Lome. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Life in Agome Sevah

Everyday life in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Veteran

A Togo war veteran with his grandaughter. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Building

A man builds a small dwelling in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.

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Light

Children can now study in the evening with the help of solar power. In Togo, near the equator, it gets dark at around 5:30. Photo: Lar Boland.