July 20, 2011

The average in the villages where MSF screened children for malnutrition was 23 percent; one village in Lapur division had a 37 percent rate of global acute malnutrition.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched an emergency nutrition project in the Turkana district in northwestern Kenya on July 18. Teams are working in two areas in Turkana—Lapur and Kibish divisions—where few humanitarian agencies have been present.

Earlier in July, MSF conducted nutrition screenings in several villages in these areas and found worrying levels of malnutrition, particularly in Lapur. Teams used MUACs, a tool that measures the middle upper-arm circumference, to determine whether the children were malnourished. The percentage of malnourished children in an area that constitutes an emergency is 15 percent; the overall average from the villages where MSF screened was 23 percent, and one village in Lapur had a 37 percent rate of global acute malnutrition.

Those in settled villages appeared to be worse off than people in nomadic villages. While the results of the MSF screening cannot be extrapolated to the entire district, they were of enough concern to require an emergency intervention, with the agreement of the Kenyan Ministry of Health.

MSF has begun running five mobile clinics that providing general healthcare to children under five years old in villages in Lapur division. These mobile clinics include an ambulatory therapeutic feeding program which has already begun treating 132 severely malnourished children. In addition, MSF is starting to support an intensive therapeutic feeding ward in the Ministry of Health district hospital in Lokitang, near the Lapur area.  

MSF is also organizing targeted food distributions for acutely malnourished people in Kibish division for one month and in Lapur division for up to three months. Teams have already started a distribution of over 31,000 kg (68,343 lb) of supplementary food, targeting more than 4,000 people in Lapur, and almost 15,000 kg (33,069 lb) targeting close to 2,000 people in Kibish.