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
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.