Life-saving work amidst a drought in northern Kenya
In northern Kenya, a drought is occurring unlike any in 40 years— possibly the worst ever recorded. The land has dried up, leaving minimal food for camels and goats to graze, and thereby leaving the local pastoralist communities in Marsabit and Turkana without their primary food sources. This drop in necessary sustenance and malnutrition is especially affecting young children, the most vulnerable among those communities.
CMF missionary to Kenya Raelyn Nicholson who is a nurse and currently serving with the Missions of Hope International (MOHI) health team has been working to address the growing issue of malnutrition among children in northern Kenya. Recently, she and a nutritionist spent 14 days in Marsabit and Turkana assessing the health of 897 preschool and kindergarten-aged students across 7 MOHI schools, diagnosing 169 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM)-- a more than 300% increase from 2021. Though the effects of SAM over a long period of time often can go undetected, the deterioration of these specific children was clear to Raelyn and the nutritionist, as for many of the students, it was Raelyn’s third time assessing them.
MOHI has been providing two free meals to their students during school days, preventing any of them from being hospitalized from malnutrition. In addition, every child with SAM is being treated with ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), a very expensive treatment that has already saved 12 children’s lives, with 28 more in recovery; due to the generosity of CMF partners, Raelyn and the MOHI health team have enough RUTF to treat the 169 children with SAM through July.
Besides being funded for RUTF, Raelyn also reports another reason for praise as MOHI leadership recently convinced the Kenyan government to allow a feeding program over schools’ 8-week school break over March and April, as MOHI meals were sustaining many children in Marsabit and Turkana.
“For the last eight weeks, nearly 2,000 students in rural villages and Nairobi’s urban slums were fed two meals Monday through Friday,” writes Raelyn. “Better yet, the average child with SAM gained more than two pounds during this time. As school resumes, we are looking forward to seeing more and more children recover from malnutrition.”
As well as these treatments for the existing issue of malnutrition, the MOHI health team has also been seeking to implement strategies to improve food security and prevent malnutrition. To this end, Raelyn, a MOHI nutritionist, and a US partner trained 28 social workers in nutritional health and farming, including strategies on mitigating malnutrition and establishing and maintaining kitchen gardens-- small gardens being called “Gardens of Faithfulness” to become a local sustainable source of food.
“This is an evangelism tool and an opportunity to empower students and parents to improve food security in the home. Our aim is for 10 schools to have these small gardens flourishing by the end of 2023,” writes Raelyn.
To help supply RUTF and fund Raelyn and the team’s work addressing food security, malnutrition, and other health issues in northern Kenya, go here.
*Main Photo: MOHI Social Workers learning about Gardens of Faithfulness.