News / Africa

Malnutrition Devastates Horn of Africa Drought Areas

A Turkana woman holds a young child as both are examined for malnutrition by a World Vision nurse at a feeding and treatment center in Lokori, Kenya, July 28, 2011
A Turkana woman holds a young child as both are examined for malnutrition by a World Vision nurse at a feeding and treatment center in Lokori, Kenya, July 28, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Malnutrition rates are skyrocketing in certain areas of the Horn of Africa, which is experiencing the worst drought in decades. To treat malnutrition, aid workers choose from an array of powders, pastes, biscuits and other supplements loaded with micro-nutrients, depending on the recipient’s circumstances.


Lokor Locmel is three years old. But her shrunken face, stick-thin limbs, and weak cry make her seem like a child half her age. She weighs almost 5.6 kilograms, but should be at least double that weight, at 11.5 kilograms.

Lokor is registered in the out-patient program at Makutano Clinic, in a village about an hour’s drive from the northern Kenyan town of Kakuma. The clinic, which serves a population of 8,500 people, has seen a dramatic spike in malnutrition as the drought rages on. In January, the clinic had 21 cases of severe malnutrition; in July, there were 68 cases.

Nutritional foods are ready to eat

Definition of Famine:

The word famine is a term that is not used lightly by humanitarian organizations. The United Nations describes a crisis as a famine only when the following conditions are met:

  • Malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent
  • More than two people per 10,000 people are dying each day
  • Severe lack of food access for large population

Current Famine:

    Almost half of Somalia's population, 3.7 million people, are affected by the current crisis with malnutrition rates in southern Somalia the highest in the world, surpassing 50 per cent in some areas. The United Nations says it is likely that tens of thousands have already have died, the majority of those being children.

    The drought that has led to the current famine in parts of Somalia has also affected people in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    Previous Famines in the Horn of Africa:

  • Somalia 1991-1992
  • Ethiopia 1984-1985
  • Ethiopia 1974

In the out-patient therapy program, Lokor receives 45 grams a week of a peanut paste fortified with a range of micro-nutrients such as vitamins, calcium, potassium, and folic acid. There are several types of paste. The one Lokor uses is called Plumpy’Nut.

Head nurse Jimmy Loree is Lokor’s caregiver. He said Plumpy’Nut is doing its job.

“Swelling of the legs, the hands, has gone. She is not looking like an old man, but now she looks shiny. And the weight also is increasing, meaning there is some good improvement in the child,” said Loree.

Plumpy’Nut and other pastes fall under a category called “ready-to-eat foods.” These are specialized therapeutic foods containing vegetable fats, dry skimmed milk and other ingredients. They are used primarily in emergency operations to prevent or treat moderate to severe malnutrition in children and to produce the greatest weight gain in the shortest time.

Packed with micronutrients, calories

Severely malnourished children and adults also are admitted to the hospital and are given intensive nutritional treatments, such as drips and milk. Another type of emergency food is high-energy biscuits.

“Fortified biscuits are also used as a ready-to-eat food that is high in nutrients and calories, and that is for people who are moving or who do not have the ability to be able to cook, then this is a very important kind of product for immediate nutritional support,” explains World Food Program spokeswoman Challis McDonough.

Other products available are compressed food bars and micronutrient powder that is sprinkled on food.

Hospitals, aid workers scramble to help

Stable populations not facing an immediate emergency situation receive supplementary rations from the “fortified blended foods” category. These are powders that are mixed with oil and water and cooked as porridge. They also contain a host of micronutrients, and are used mainly in supplementary feeding and mother and child health programs.

It is distribution day at Kakuma Mission Hospital, which happens twice a month. More than 300 women and their children line up under a hot sun to receive cooking oil and a supplement known as Corn-Soya Blend.

Thomas Ekai, the administrator of Kakuma Mission Hospital, said, "The normal ratio per month is actually 7.5 kilograms [16.5 pounds] and the oil is 0.75 [kilograms], so it is one-tenth of the other food. That is what they are given if they are found to be malnourished and they do the OTP [out-patient therapy] there. That means they get the food and they go home. It is done twice a month and it is mixed here. They go with the food mixed - they may not actually go there and do the mixing as required. ”

Kakuma Mission Hospital, and most other health-care facilities and food distribution sites, get their rations and therapeutic nutritional treatments from the U.N.’s World Food Program. Once WFP delivers the food aid to the site, aid agencies typically distribute the food.

Fighting starvation

To determine who is malnourished, health-care professionals follow a number of procedures, including measuring the thickness of the upper-arm, comparing someone’s weight with their height, and looking at an area’s overall food security situation. Those eligible for food aid are then registered and monitored, so that they can begin their long journey back to health.

Some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa face hunger and starvation due to the drought that has ravaged the region over the past several months.

The nomadic herders of Kenya’s Turkana districts have been hit particularly hard. Some 30 percent of households in the area rely on food aid to survive, while at least half of the households consume only one meal a day. Almost half of Turkana’s children are moderately or severely malnourished, and in need of life-saving emergency nutrition services.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs