Every child aged between 6 months and 3 years in parts of northern Kenya hit worst by drought will receive emergency food supplies as Save the Children and other agencies launch a mass feeding programme this week.
With 2.3 million malnourished children in East Africa facing starvation, the food supplies will save lives by ensuring that young children and new mothers in the districts of Wajir and Mandera have enough to eat.
Rates of malnutrition have soared to 32 percent in some parts of northern Kenya, more than double the international emergency threshold of 15 percent, leaving children vulnerable to disease and in the worst cases, death.
Even if they recover, the effects of malnutrition during early childhood can affect children for the rest of their lives – they can become stunted and not grow to their physical and mental potential.
CEO of Save the Children New Zealand Liz Gibbs says many East African children are in dire conditions and that urgent help is still needed.
“Parents are seeing their children waste away and lives are being lost as families go without food for days. This is totally unacceptable. This feeding programme means the most vulnerable children will have enough nutritious food to survive the coming weeks and months," Ms Gibbs says.
Over the next five months, Save the Children's staff will be distributing 6kg of a fortified cereal blend and 0.6 kg of vegetable oil to 100,000 children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers on a monthly basis.
The feeding programme will ensure that the most vulnerable children are receiving nutritious food in order to help prevent malnutrition as the drought continues to push families into hunger across East Africa.
The food will also be distributed to pregnant and lactating mothers to help in the battle to keep babies healthy and will support the health of breastfeeding mothers. Breast milk provides food, fluid and helps to increase babies’ immune systems.