Republic of Kenya


Kenya is a country with a predominantly rural and very young population. About 80% of the land area is arid and semi-arid, mainly in the northern and eastern regions. Areas with a good agricultural potential represent only about 18% of the territory but support 80% of the population. Agriculture, mainly rain-fed, is the main sector of the Kenyan economy. The country is recurrently affected by drought, floods and environmental degradation due to over-exploitation of natural resources.

Stagnation of food production, an unfavourable economic environment and poverty are the major causes of food insecurity in the country. Public expenditures have declined in the past decade, causing a deterioration of infrastructure, education and health services. The persistence of malaria and the progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic have contributed to the fall in life expectancy and the rise in mortality rates, particularly for infants and under-fives. Immunization coverage has also regressed since the 1990's. Population groups most affected by these negative trends are the rural, the lesser educated, the female-headed households, as well as populations living in the arid and semi-arid areas, in urban slums and in peri-urban settlements.

The national dietary energy supply barely meets population energy requirements, resulting in undernourishment for a third of the population. Nevertheless, the prevalence of undernourishment has declined, albeit slowly, during the last decade. Although cereals, sugar and vegetable oil supply almost two thirds of the dietary energy, the diversity of the diet is improving gradually. Supplies of fruit, vegetables and milk are increasing.

Some infant feeding practices are highly beneficial to the health of children, particularly universal breastfeeding, but others such as the low rate of exclusive breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are not. Inadequate infant feeding practices combined with food insecurity of households and low access to health services lead to a high prevalence of undernutrition among young children, particularly in the North Eastern, Eastern and Coastal provinces. Overall, during the last decade, prevalence of underweight, stunting and wasting have not declined. Women are also affected by chronic energy deficiency. While undernutrition persists at high levels, overnutrition is emerging among urban adults.

Undernutrition is associated with widespread micronutrient deficiencies. Although recent data are not available, it is likely that iodine deficiency disorders are still prevalent. The national programme of iodization of salt needs to be evaluated. Vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are both highly prevalent in the country. The implementation of supplementation in vitamin A and iron is still insufficient. More long-term strategies are needed such as fortification, dietary diversification and nutritional education.

© FAO 2010