134,000 pregnant, breastfeeding women acutely malnourished – report
A total of 134,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women in Turkana County are reported to be acutely malnourished.
The United Nations women’s health agency, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has blamed the dire situation on four successive failed rainy seasons which have caused the worst drought in 40 years.
“The dry seasons have been progressively getting worse over the last three years, but our animals kept us going with milk and meat. This time, they have all perished and left us with nothing,” 28-year-old Akure Ewar who is seven months pregnant said.
Loima Sub-county public health officer Maiyo Elphas said before the drought, the health facilities would record an average of 411 deliveries in a month, indicating a skilled birth attendance rate of 70 per cent.
“In November 2022, the number was down to 100 births, which represents a worrying rate of 24.6 per cent,” he noted.
The rate of skilled birth attendance was already low in Kenya, a country with a high maternal death rate of 342 per 100,000 live births but the situation is worsening dramatically for those affected by drought.
In Lochorepetet Village, 30-year-old Losikiria Kuya, who is pregnant with her fourth child and often goes for days without food, is frequently unable to trek the 10 kilometres to the nearest health centre for her ante-natal check-ups.
“Usually, when it is time to deliver, my husband would take me to the centre on a motorbike, but with him often gone in search of pasture, I have to fend for myself if need be,” she said.
According to a nurse at Lobei health facility in Loima sub county Dedan Njagi, during the drought season, they have been carrying out health outreach activities every two weeks where they offer ante-natal and postnatal services, family planning, nutrition and immunization services to the community.
During each visit, an estimated 15 to 20 pregnant women receive care, he said.
The drought crisis is not only affecting women’s access to essential maternal health care; it is causing serious undernutrition among pregnant women, escalating risks to them and their future babies.
UNFPA and partners are providing life-saving sexual and reproductive health services that bring services closer to those who need them most.
The severity and exceptional duration of the drought is worsening an already dire situation in Turkana County, which was already reeling from locust infestations and the Covid- 19 pandemic.
Projections indicate a possible sixth consecutive poor rainy season from March to May, placing even more women and girls at risk.