Urban poverty and the ghost of malnutrition
When you mention Kenya and malnutrition, the first place that comes to mind is the North Eastern province – the starkest representation of how hard life can get.
The desolate land instills fear, evoking emotions of a painful history of child deaths, fear of a cyclic catastrophe and hope of a future where a mother will only have to nurse play wounds rather than confront the reality every day that her child’s life is precariously balanced at the end of a disaster shotgun.
Struggle for survival
As the busy city of Nairobi goes about its usual everyday hustle and bustle, those living on the fringes face a mostly ignored struggle for survival: getting through another day on a minimum of food. With little money and sometimes no access to a basic meal, a balanced diet is quite an ambition for the children of the Mukuru slum.
At daybreak, a ‘decent’ breakfast for these children consists of maize-meal porridge, courtesy of a kilo of maize ration distributed by the government and ground at the local posho mill. If they are lucky, it could come with some sugar but no milk, because the price is equivalent to another packet of milled flour.
This basic meal is meant to fill their bellies sufficiently so the children can concentrate on their education and forget the distraction of constant hunger for a short while.
School for food
At the local schools, the student population swells during the lunch hour when the pupils in the school feeding programme line up for a ration of boiled maize to take them through the rest of the day.
They reach out for a share of the lunch for their siblings to share come evening, even if its just a spoonful each.
No chance of a balanced diet
Most of the residents here rely on menial jobs that have been getting thinner by the day: add that to inflation and the rising cost of living and a balanced diet gets as hard to come by as the jobs themselves.
When the vegetables are available, they are expensive. Families have to to settle for a handful to be shared among them, extending little or no dietary benefits.
As Save the Children exposes the hidden crisis and launches its global report on malnutrition, I believe that it’s every child’s right to live a life free from hunger.