The food security situation in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties has significantly improved after two consecutive seasons of above-average rains, with approximately 739,000 people currently facing severe food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above), according to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group 2020 Long Rains Food and Security Assessment (LRA). The decline is attributed to the cumulative good performance of the 2019 short rains and 2020 long rains. Crop prospects are reportedly average to very good based on available water requirements except in parts of the southeast and coastal areas. According to the LRA, maize production for the 2020 long rains in the country is projected to be approximately 10 to 15 per cent above the five-year average. The food security situation in the ASAL is reportedly at one of the lowest levels in the last 15 years, with most counties in IPC Phase 2. The situation is projected to remain stable until October 2020. The outlook for the October, November and December short rains—critical for crop production in semi-arid areas and pasture regeneration in arid areas—is projected to below normal rainfall with higher than normal temperatures (30 to 60 per cent). This is reportedly driven by rising sea surface temperatures in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and the possibility of a la Nina event.
In urban areas, approximately 1.7 million people are projected to be facing food insecurity in the informal settlements, due to including, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, increased food prices and a decrease in income or the loss of a job.
Despite the general improvement in food security and nutrition outcomes, malnutrition levels remain high across the ASAL counties, indicative of the multiple and complex underlying causes beyond food security. Nearly 1.17 million children and women require treatment for acute malnutrition, including about 135,500 of them for severe acute malnutrition (SAM), according to the LRA.
Following intense rainfall, multiple lakes in Kenya—including Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria and Lake 94, Lake Naivasha, Lake Turkana, and Lake Victoria—are at record-high levels, causing displacement and loss of livelihoods for surrounding communities. Aerial control operations continue against several immature swarms of desert locusts in north-west Kenya. However, some of the swarms in Samburu and Turkana counties have started maturing, suggesting the possibility of a generation of breeding once the short rains start in October, according to FAO. The locusts are reportedly feeding on vegetation and threatening food security for livestock. Samburu has been reporting an average of between five and eight swarms daily, which have covered about 180 hectares, according to county Special Programmes Officers.
Close monitoring of the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on continuity of essential services and livelihoods, to mitigate its effect on food and nutrition situation remains critical. At least 8,000 new cases have been reported in the last three weeks. Since 12 March 2020 when Kenya reported the first COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has confirmed a total of 35,205 cases with 599 deaths (case fatality rate (CFR) of 1.7 per cent), as of 7 September. At least 64 per cent of the confirmed cases are male. Of the total cases, 98 per cent are local transmissions, including at least 975 infections with 16 deaths among health workers. MoH attributes the high rate of infection among private health facility health-care workers to inadequate adherence to infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines and inadequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs). All the 47 counties in the country have reported COVID-19 infections, with Nairobi County reporting 56 per cent (19,789 cases) of the reported cases, followed by Kiambu County with (9 per cent). Nairobi City and Mombasa Counties continue to have the highest attack rates of COVID-19 at 450 and 203.8 per 100,000 population, respectively, compared to the national average of 73.8 and need enhanced interventions. COVID-19 infections in the refugee camps have reportedly more than doubled from 52 cases on 9 August to 115 cases with four deaths, as of 31 August. On 26 August, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the extension of the nationwide night curfew (9 p.m. to 4 a.m) for another 30 days. The prohibition of the sale of alcohol by licensed hotels has been lifted, while bars and nightclubs will remain closed for another 30 days. The number of persons permitted to attend funerals and weddings has been increased to 100, while the ban on the sale of second-hand clothing had been lifted, subject to adherence to the COVID-19 health regulations. The President further directed the establishment of a National Reference Group on COVID-19 to review the efficacy of the response to the pandemic. According to the President, health experts have advised that the infections have reached a manageable level, with recoveries being more than infections. Hot spots like Mombasa and Nairobi have reportedly begun to stabilize, although the authorities have reported a shift of cases in the counties and rural areas. The levels of positivity rate country-wide have reportedly fallen from 13 per cent in June to 8 per cent in August. However, WHO has cautioned against the relaxation of measures aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that the reported decline is not necessarily an indication of a national decline in the spread of the disease. According to WHO, the decline closely mirrors trends for Nairobi and Mombasa counties, which account for 64 per cent of the total cases and further the reduction coincided with several factors including low lower laboratory testing, minimal contact tracing and deviation from the national testing strategy as only low-risk groups were tested, according to WHO. Health institutions continue to report insuﬃcient laboratory testing and medical facilities including, personal protection kits for frontline health workers and community health volunteers, logistical and operational support for field operations such as rapid response to new cases, contact tracing, data management and reporting are among the key challenges identified in the response. The long turnaround time for relaying laboratory results, including at border points with Uganda is causing delay in public health action. WHO has called on the public to adhere to health guidelines and COVID-19 regulations for prevention, as the risk of transmission remains high.
Uptake of other essential health services has reportedly reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic, with preliminary results from an MoH Study (yet to be released) recording a 30 per cent decline in outpatient visits between March and May, and 20 per cent decline in immunization services, particularly Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DPT3). Attendance at health facilities by those with chronic conditions reportedly reduced by 40 per cent, raising concerns over the impact of COVID-19 on management of HIV, TB, diabetes, and other conditions. The study further records a significant rise in gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 5,000 rape survivors reportedly received medical treatment at various health facilities across the country from March to June, of whom 70 per cent are children, with 95 per cent being female. In some counties, including Wajir, Turkana, Kisii, Nandi, Lamu, Homabay and Kisumu, there was a 30 per cent increase in incidents of violence since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information provided by MoH during the daily government COVID-19 briefing. Rising gender-based violence has been a serious concern in Kenya since measures were imposed to contain COVID-19. On 6 July, the President ordered the National Crime Research Centre to probe the escalating cases of gender-based violence and “the worrying trend of cases where the girl child has been disempowered”.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that the cholera outbreak that affected Garissa, Wajir, Turkana, Murang’a and Marsabit countries this year is now under control, including the fourth wave that was reported in Turkana since June. Outbreaks of measles are still active in five counties: West Pokot, Garissa, Wajir, Tana River and Kilifi, with a cumulative 512 cases reported, including 49 confirmed and two deaths (CFR 0.4 per cent), according to MoH. At least 65 new cases have been reported since 6 August. Interventions by the County Health Departments in the affected counties include contact tracing, stocking of adequate doses of measles – rubella vaccines and vitamin A, maintenance of cold chain equipment, sensitization of the public and health workers and treatment of the cases.