Monday, August 22, 2011

'Perfect storm' brewing among Kenya's urban poor

IRIN: The food crisis that is devastating lives and killing children throughout the Horn of Africa is not restricted to the arid lands where media attention and donor dollars are now focused. In informal urban settlements, malnutrition affects thousands of children but remains largely overlooked. Over the past five months, Concern Worldwide has recorded a 62 percent increase in cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) at clinics it supports in Nairobi slum areas.

"Since we are only reaching 33 percent of the slum population we know there are likely to be lots more people not getting help," said communications manager Elizabeth Wright. “Everything is sort of combining for a perfect storm,” Wright told IRIN. “We’re going to be seeing a full-scale nutritional emergency in the urban context. It will be too late.”

Peter Hailey from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) concurred: “The food crisis, the fuel crisis, and so on are probably affecting people in urban areas more than in the north.”

While the 2.3 percent global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate Concern found in many of Nairobi's slums falls well below the emergency threshold of 15 percent, more than 8,600 children under five are acutely malnourished in these areas. By contrast, because of its sparser population, northern Isiolo district's 15.7 percent GAM rate equates to fewer than 3,000 children under five who are acutely malnourished. “This is not as visible as cattle and goats dying,” said Amina Abdulla, programme manager for urban livelihoods and social protection at Concern. “But the crisis is as severe.” …

A view of Nairobi's Mathare Valley slum, a striking photo by Claudio Allia, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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