Shortage of funds threatens crucial nutrition support to refugees in Kenya

WFP has run out of fortified flour for the prevention of malnutrition.

Liza Mukonkole is 20 years old. Her first child is four months old, so she still qualifies for the preventive portion of nutritious flour. But once the stocks at the clinic run dry, there will be no replenishment. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi

Achol Ngeng is 19 years old and the mother of a two-month-old boy. Since the beginning of her pregnancy, Achol has faithfully visited the International Rescue Committee-run health centre in Kakuma 1 camp every two weeks to collect corn-soy blend — a fortified flour meant to prevent malnutrition.

Achol was born in Kakuma and has lived all her life here. Growing up in a large family, food was never adequate. Now, she is starting her own family, thousands of miles from her home town in Jonglei, South Sudan.

“When I was pregnant, this porridge was my main meal most of the days.”

Funding shortfalls and difficult decisions

Achol Ngeng, 19 years old, collects her share of corn soya blend at the International Rescue Committee-run health centre in Kakuma 1 camp. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi

Unfortunately, funding shortfalls have forced the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to stop distributing this crucial fortified flour as a preventative measure to all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and to children under two years.

Now, WFP is having to prioritize those that are already malnourished, with children receiving a nutritious ready to eat peanut-based paste and the women getting a more specialized flour for porridge — products that are available courtesy of EU humanitarian funding.

“I collect two jugs of flour twice a month from this health centre,” said Achol. “If there is no more flour here, I won’t have any other source — I cannot buy it from the market because I have no cash.”

Even if Achol had the cash, it would be extremely difficult to find the highly nutritious flour in the market. And if it were to be legally supplied in the markets, the price would be prohibitive.

“WFP has been giving the fortified flour to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers and to children under two years during the monthly food distributions as a general precaution to prevent a rise in malnutrition,” said Jackline Gatimu, Programme Associate — Nutrition at WFP. “However, now we are conserving the limited stocks of nutrition products and only using them for the treatment of moderate malnutrition through the health centres. This is purely because of a shortage of funds.”

The fortified flour, or corn-soy blend, is the single most nutritious product in the refugees’ general food basket. Without it, mothers and children cannot be guaranteed a stable source of highly nutritious foods.

Don’t touch! It’s mother’s porridge

Health workers check a child for malnutrition. Funding shortfalls have forced WFP to stop distributing fortified flour as a preventative measure to all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and to children under two years. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi

The product is given to pregnant and/or breastfeeding women (with children under six months) every two weeks. The mothers collect a portion to last them between 14 and 18 days. This porridge is not meant to be shared with anyone else in the family and is solely for the mother.

The porridge gives women additional strength and health so that they can breastfeed more comfortably for six months and, for those who are pregnant, the porridge helps with the healthy development of the foetus.

If a woman is found to be malnourished during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, she is given a more nutritious specialized flour to treat and reverse the condition.

During the twice monthly visits to the clinics, mothers are also taught about best nutrition and hygiene practices.

Little or no choice

Liza Mukonkole is 20 years old and as she has a four-month old child she qualifies for the preventive portion of nutritious flour. But once the stocks at the clinic run dry, there will be no replenishment.

“This porridge is good for my health,” said Liza. “I take it three times a day.”

Liza has been taught on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding until the child turns six months. She wants to make sure that her child gets a good start in life.

“If the flour that we collect here runs out, I will probably start buying maize meal or milled sorghum for porridge,” said Liza. “I hope those who have been giving us the flour can continue doing so.”

Treatment of malnutrition among refugees in Kenya is supported with funding from EU Humanitarian Aid.

Read more about WFP’s work in Kenya.

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