Namuding, a young mother in the drought-hit Turkana region of northern Kenya, is fighting off malnutrition thanks to a nutrition programme supported by the EU. Last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa left many communities weakened, making women and children especially vulnerable.
TURKANA — Six weeks ago, Namuding Akimat’s baby, then about three weeks old, cried incessantly. “He did not seem to be getting enough breast milk and I did not know what to do,” said Namuding. “Since giving birth to the baby, I just did not seem to have energy to do much and most times I felt sick,” she added.
One of Namuding’s neighbors encouraged her to take the child to the hospital to find out why her baby cried all the time. The neighbor told her that she might also get treatment for her fatigue. So off she went to Lodwar district hospital in Turkana, which is about five kilometers from her home. Turkana is in north-western Kenya.
“At the hospital they put a tape measure on my upper arm and told me that I needed to go on a programme where I would receive special nutritional food to help me feel stronger,” said Namuding as she nursed her now two-month-old baby.
Namuding is now receiving a product called Super Cereal, a nutrient-rich blend of corn and soya. She’s one of about 10,000 people receiving this sort of nutritional support in Turkana. The programme reaches children under the age of five years and pregnant and nursing mothers who are moderately malnourished.
When she was enrolled in the programme six weeks ago, Namuding’s mid upper arm circumference (known to nutritionists as her ‘MUAC’) measured 20.3 cm. Now it is 21.3 cm. According to WFP nutritionist Joyce Owigar, a pregnant or nursing mother with a MUAC of less than 20 cm is severely malnourished. “Namuding has improved from being almost severely malnourished to moderately malnourished”, she said.
The programme through which Namuding receives her rations of Super Cereal targets people who are already certified as malnourished. But in order to catch women and children who may not go anywhere near hospitals and clinics, another programme aims to distribute nutritious food rations to all under-5s and pregnant and nursing mothers. This programme reaches around 140,000 people in Turkana.
Alongside the nutrition programmes, the European Union (either through individual member countries or through ECHO, the humanitarian arm of the EU) is also supporting other WFP-run programmes for people affected by drought in northern Kenya.
Only one of Namuding’s five children goes to school. At school, the child gets a nutritious hot lunch. “I am thankful for the food he gets in school and I pray that after his education he can be a teacher,” says Namuding.