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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development
Title Nutritional and health challenges of pastoralist populations in Kenya
Volume 17
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers 11592-11602
URL https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ajfand/article/view/153758
This paper examines nutritional and health challenges facing pastoralists who inhabit
fragile rangelands and are one of the most nutritionally vulnerable population groups in
Kenya. The review is based on a synthesis of literature on pastoralist food security,
nutrition and health status and livelihoods in Kenya’s rangelands. Documents reviewed
included health and nutrition surveys, journal articles, case studies, reports from NonGovernmental
Organisations and ‘grey’ literature. The main nutritional challenge is food
insecurity leading to high malnutrition rates. Global acute malnutrition rates for the last
five years ranged from 10 to 28%. Nutritional status of pastoralists varies with seasons,
with high malnutrition experienced during droughts, which have been worsened by
increasing climate change. Micronutrient deficiencies include iron, folic acid and niacin.
Pregnant women consume restricted diets in the belief that they will have easier delivery.
This leads to low birth weight, estimated at 13% among some pastoral groups.
Knowledge of breastfeeding and complementary feeding is poor. Infants are introduced
to animal milk from a few days old, which is a risk factor for malnutrition and morbidity.
Besides experiencing chronic under-nutrition, pastoralists carry a substantial disease
burden and are poorly covered by health services. The main diseases are malaria,
respiratory tract infections and diarrhoea. Availability of safe drinking water is a
challenge, and pastoralists are frequently affected by water-borne diseases.
Sedentarisation also presents negative nutritional consequences to pastoralists including
inadequate housing and lack of clean drinking water. Efforts to address the challenges
should focus on nutrition education around the importance of appropriate weight gain
during pregnancy, benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, and sanitation concerning safe
drinking water. At the community level, there should be an integrated approach by all
stakeholders implementing health and nutrition interventions in pastoralist areas. At the
national level, interventions should focus both on relief and resilience building, and be
tailor-made specifically for the pastoralist communities. The nutritional impact of such
interventions needs to be established.

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