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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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Gender-based violence in Sierra Leone

Freetown Rainbo Centre staffRainbo Centre signWorking to prevent violence
Midwife Annie MafindaSafiatu Jalloh, counselorMidwife Many Sowa
Rakel LarsonChief Officer Balogun DixonMadam Julia Sarkodie Mensah
Police Family Support UnitCourtroom posterJoseph Rahall
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Freetown Rainbo Centre staff

Staff, including midwives, counsellors and security guards, at the Freetown Rainbo Centre, in the Princeses Christian Maternity Hospital, which deals with rape crises. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Rainbo Centre sign

Rainbo Centre sign which hangs in all three centres in Sierra Leone. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Working to prevent violence

Six members of a men's group in Kenema, Sierra Leone run by IRC. They are working to change men's attitudes and stop violence before it starts. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Midwife Annie Mafinda

Midwife Annie Mafinda, with toys in the counselling room at the Freetown Rainbo Centre. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Safiatu Jalloh, counselor

Safiatu Jalloh, counselor with the Rainbo Centre in Kenema. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Midwife Many Sowa

Many Sowa, midwife at the Kenema Rainbo Centre, Sierra Leone. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Rakel Larson

Rakel Larson, United Nations Displaced Persons representative, working with Irish Aid on the Saturday Courts project. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Chief Officer Balogun Dixon

Balogun Dixon, Chief Officer Pademba Road Prison, at the Freetown Courthouse. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

http://www.worldandmedia.com/components/com_gk3_photoslide/thumbs_big/827415Madam_Julia_Sarkodie_Mensah_Consultant_Master_and_Registrar_of_the_Sierra_Leone_Judiciary_338_450.jpg

Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah

Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar of the Sierra Leone Judiciary. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Police Family Support Unit

The Family Support Unit in the Kenema Police Force, pictured outside their station. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Courtroom poster

Poster on the walls of a courtroom in the Freetown Courthouse building offering socio-legal support for victims of gender-based violence. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

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Joseph Rahall

Joseph Rahall, Executive Director of eco-NGO 'Green Scenery', at their offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone.