It means having food on the table, especially a balanced diet, appropriately cooked, the food we can easily access that hasn’t expired, which is nutritious and will enhance our development. Most Children walk almost five kilometers to and from home for lunch and they have to come back under the scorching sun in the afternoon for the remaining lessons. As children, we really try so hard not to sleep under the hot roofs of our classrooms as we listen through the lessons.” Say children from Wajir County
In Kenya, at least one in every three people are dealing with severe food insecurities and poor nutrition, and those disproportionately affected by food insecurities are children. In addition, roughly 20% of individuals do not meet the required dietary necessities, which in turn results in malnutrition and stunted growth for children.
Nutrition deficiency has been a major challenge for most children in Kenya, economic and practical factors have major roles to play in sustaining such high levels of insecurity. Most families live on less than a dollar per day, and in 2018, 90-kilogram bags of maize worth Sh 3.1 billion was reported unfit and become inedible in the National Cereal and Produce Board Store (NCPB).
Recently, there has been more of a push for food security to become a core objective in Kenya, and the issue has been highlighted under the Big Four Agenda.
For the past few months, my team and I visited several counties that are either semi-arid or arid and were able to see the struggles undergone by young children who are striving to have better growth and development. As many communities rely upon pastoral-ism and rain-fed growth for crops, nomadic communities tend to suffer the most, as they often live in areas that receive lower-than-average annual rainfall. Children that are brought up through long droughts and acute water shortages are at a much higher risk of child wasting and/or mortality.
Food insecurity is associated with many factors; poverty, corruption, unemployment/underemployment, and can also be exacerbated by families with less education, and those that have been affected by either parental separation or divorce. Children in such scenarios have limited access to quality food leading to unhealthy eating patterns, ultimately resulting in loss of weight, stress, depression, and anxiety. Children between the ages of four months to three years of age are at most risk of developing problems that hugely affect nurturing care. Nurturing care is important to every child as it keeps them safe, healthy, nourished, paying attention to their needs and encouraging them to take up new opportunities. The way children are nurtured until the age of three has a large impact on how they develop for the future.
There is a clear need to build more irrigation schemes, encourage growing of trees and managing the logging industry. There is a need to ensure that food products are in good condition, expiry dates can be monitored, and storage is appropriate to preserve edible goods.
There’s a need to ensure that the food provided in schools includes a balanced diet for a minimum of two days a week. The government and society need to embrace new technologies for knowledge transfer by improving internet and computer technology, especially on rural farms, creation of employment for young women and men and water harvesting that can be used later on.
Kenya’s Government and other partners have become increasingly aware of the importance of food security, and they must fight to ensure there’s good management and planning to enhance the agricultural sector, sustaining employ-ability and nutrition for millions. Government has to take the responsibility of ensuring the payment of farmers on time and giving out adequate and affordable fertilizers that will enhance their yields and produce.