Cases of malnutrition have escalated in the drought-stricken Bamba division in Kilifi County owing to the prolonged drought that has hit the region depriving residents of food and water.
With 90 per cent of households in Bamba living below poverty line, erratic food security has contributed to the deteriorating trend of malnutrition that has mostly affected children under five years, elderly persons, pregnant and lactating mothers.
Most of the affected families attribute their dilapidating health situation to lack of food and taking of unsafe water.
In an interview with KNA at Midoina sub-location in Bamba ward, 69-year-old widower, Rama Mwambogo, said his grandchildren often get severe diarrhea and stomachaches due to drinking contaminated water which is even scarce in the region.
Rama narrated how his family goes for as long as three days without taking a single meal leaving him with no strength to do his charcoal burning business which he had to turn to for his livelihood and his children after farming activities were derailed by the dry weather condition.
“Water is a problem here and getting food has proven to be very difficult. I stay even for three days without eating anything and that’s why you see my health situation this way. My grandchildren are having severe diarrhea because sometimes the water vendors I buy water from bring dirty water drawn from stagnant ponds from Samburu. You see this child here, with this current situation which is dangerous as it can lead to death,” Rama narrated.
Kadzo Kibichi, a single mother of four residing at Mitangani village in the area narrated to KNA how raising malnourished babies has been difficult while grappling with the unsettling drought.
She said her efforts to burn charcoal for sale has only enabled her afford a single meal on a daily basis and added it is hardly a balanced diet.
“I can only afford evening meals which is ugali and omena daily. I don’t get the luxury to balance diet because even getting maize floor to prepare ugali is in the first place a nightmare. It is challenging for me because even getting water to cook with or drink is a problem. And having unhealthy babies is worse because I can’t even go in search of water leaving them here. I have been counting on burning charcoal to sell and raise my children, a hard tackle especially given that I don’t get the money immediately,” Kadzo said.
She said her 2-year-old daughter has fallen ill with diarrhea and vomiting problems a number of times after drinking contaminated water.
“If you don’t eat healthy food you definitely become ill. We are really suffering from lack of food and water to an extent that our children stay hungry the whole day in school without eating anything. If you look at my lastborn daughter here, she is this way because she has been having diarrhea. The doctors said her condition is due to drinking contaminated water,” Kadzo said.
Kadzo asked the county and national governments and well-wishers to intervene saying that the lives of most children in the area are at risk.
The devastating health condition among babies under five years due to ravaging drought in Bamba region is no different from Kadzo Katana’s homestead, a 26-year-old mother of four residing in Midoina who also shared her pitiful situation to the media while pleading with well-wishers to come to her aid.
Kadzo said her baby’s health condition of malnutrition and consistent diarrhea has been caused by lack of food and use of dirty water.
“We don’t get food often and the water we are lucky to get is not fit for consumption. My baby’s health is worrying me because of frequent diarrhea and stomachaches. I am asking the two levels of governments and well-wishers to come and help us with food and water as our health is getting worse,” she said.
Kilifi County Nutritionist Bendadze Nyawa told the media that a recent survey conducted to follow up on the prolonged dry weather conditions in Kilifi suggests that 11,000 out 216,000 children under five years in the county have malnutrition.
“The county government is collaborating with NGOs like UNICEF and World Vision to ensure that babies visiting health facilities in the county are tested and in cases of malnutrition they are given food and medicine,” Nyawa said.
Speaking to the media at Midoina sub-location during a home visit, a Community Health Extension Worker Samwel Fondo confirmed that lack of food and water has contributed to rise in malnutrition in the region especially to children under five years and nursing mothers.
“There has been an upsurge in the rate of malnutrition resulting from lack of food among families as drought continues to ravage the area. The members of this community are undergoing a lot of hardships and ill-health conditions. I see worst situations like kwashiorkor and severe diarrhea among babies. Families are going without meals and water here and that is the major cause of the declining health,” Fondo said.
He pleaded with the government and non-governmental organizations to help the residents obtain food and water to enable them improve their health.
As the alarming malnutrition rates in the drought-hit regions of Kilifi County continue to be the county’s health setback, the residents have taken it into their hands to cut the few remaining trees to make charcoal for sale to earn income thus causing the recurring incidences of drought due to deforestation.
By Treeza Auma and Harrison Yeri