Thursday, December 8, 2011


Kenya’s 600 km coastline is fast succumbing to Mother Nature’s wrath and retaliatory attacks. A single aerial view of the magnificent ocean and sandy beaches can give the false impression that all is well but at a closer look it is possible to see the degradation that is as a result of climate change.
The depletion of the ozone layer by the continued emission of greenhouse gases like carbon has resulted in global warming as the sun rays reflecting from the earth’s surface are blocked by the blanket of gases.
The increased temperature around the earth’s surface has led to the melting of ice caps on mountains and thermal expansion of water masses causing the rise in sea level.
Kenya has two tidal gauges one at the Fisheries jetty in Mkowe, Lamu County and another at the Liwatoni jetty in Kilindini Harbor, Mombasa County which are part of the Global Sea Level Observing System. The gauges that are managed by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) provide high quality standardized data from monitoring the sea levels.
According to KMFRI senior scientist Dr. Charles Magori the gauges have each been fitted with different monitoring systems for redundancy checks and to provide more credible data.
 The set of data recorded by the two tide gauges from 1986-2006 reveals that the sea level along the coastline has had a gradual increase of 1.9 mm.
“Despite the gaps from unprecedented breakdown of the tide gauges there is a continuous set of data that agrees with the global increase trend of 2mm,” he said.
Despite the increase being considered negligible the impacts on a global scale are far reaching affecting both terrestrial and marine biodiversity.
“It may look like a very small increase but oceans account for 2/3 of the earth’s surface and that is an enormous volume of water which is moving inland,” he noted
The most visible of these impacts has been the erosion of land along the coastline. Many residents and hoteliers in low lying areas of north coast and some in the south have experienced loss of land due to erosion.
“Unlike Mombasa the northern banks of Malindi and Lamu are low lying areas and are more vulnerable to the effects of sea level rising,” he explained
Ngomeni in Malindi is one such area with a serious erosion problem. Buildings and trees have literally been swept away as the sea has gotten inland. Accretion has also taken place though on a much smaller scale with buildup of sand in areas that was once covered by the sea.
With each tidal excursion there is a salt water intrusion into the ground water such those with dug boreholes end up having more saline water than usual. Those dependent on such wells have to seek other sources of water for use.
Marine biodiversity has not been spared either; eggs of turtles that are laid on the sandy beaches are washed away and eaten by predators. Deep sea creatures get stuck along the coastline after being washed ashore during tidal excursions.
The warm temperatures deny the sea the much needed oxygen leading to bleaching of coral reefs and reducing their ability to form limestone skeletons.
Dr. Magori lamented that the impacts of sea level rising are worse during springtide where waves are higher than normal.
“The tidal variation in spring tide is close to 4 meters plus the general rises in sea level then the excursions are likely to be longer with more intrusions inland,” he added.
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prediction puts the sea level increase in the worst case scenario at 50 cm by 2050 and 100 cm at the end of the century.
This directly means that more water will be displaced inland putting low lying islands across the world at a major risk of disappearance.
This would mean the vanishing of Lamu, Pate,Watamu,Wasini and Kiunga islands which are major tourist attractions. The establishment and enforcement of a comprehensive coastal zone management policy remains to be the only solution for loss of land along the coastline.
Many of the hotels in north and south coast built close to the ocean have already begun constructing sea walls to prevent further loss of land through erosion but this according to Dr. Magori is not permanent reprieve as some of the walls have been built without the consultation of coastal engineers.
“Those sea walls will only help for a time; we need to set up a legal framework that would enforce adherence to set back lines that will prevent people from building too close to the ocean,” he reiterated.
Varying set back lines provide a safe distance for construction and cultivation from the ocean’s high water mark depending on the land’s topography and vulnerability. South Africa has put up one such set back line of 200 meters in Durban  where construction of buildings to close to the sea is not allowed.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rampant Malnutrition in children

Young Baraka Kitsao struggles to make a meal from the trifling remains in a small purple dish whose contents have been eaten up hastily by those who came before him.
His fingers try to scoop the little of what is left of the ugali and boiled greens that are in the bowls.
It is evident that the food will not appease his hunger  but it will have to do particularly if this will be the only meal served today.
By looking at his frail body it is hard to imagine that he is four years old or that he is older than some of his siblings.
He is malnourished and underfed with no comparison to other boys of his age.
The Standard made its way to the tiny village of Mizingo in Bamba, Kilifi County just as the children in the Kitsao homestead were having late lunch and witnessed firsthand their daily struggle.
And right in time to find a hungry eight month old Salama crying and yelling to get the attention of her older sister at least to have a handful of food diverted to her yearning mouth.
Noticing that her pleas are falling on deaf ears, Salama stretches her arm trying to reach into the bowl of ugali.

Salama’s older sibling is prompted by her attempts to reach for the bowl and feeds her.

She stops crying only after she is given a piece of ugali but resumes moments later when she realizes that another serving is not forthcoming.
It is no wonder that Salama like her half brother Baraka is underweight.
The Kitsao homestead portrays the reality in many homesteads in Kilifi county where food is hard to come by and one has to be content with the little they have.

 According to  Kilifi district nutritionist Ronald Mbunye  malnutrition is common particularly where poverty reigns.

“Many of the children in poor households have to survive on the reality of sharing food because it is a scarce commodity,” he said.

He decried that many of the younger children had to do with the care of their older siblings as the women had to tend to the farms.

“Women here go to the farms to dig after the rains but they hardly benefit because of the inconsistent rains.” he noted
Many of the children have to scramble for their daily rations that hardly meet the nutritional requirements for healthy growth with their siblings.
Younger children are fed at the mercy of older siblings and wait until they have had their fill or like Salama protest to have their way.
Many of the women have left their homes to dig in their farms with the hope that they will benefit from the inconsistent rains of the recent past.
The government supplementary feeding program offers a little help to children like Baraka and Salama by providing them with food rations that meet their nutritional needs twice a month.
The prolonged drought has however made it difficult for those on the feeding program as they have had to share their rations with their siblings.
And if like Baraka they miss out while the restof the children are feeding they have to do with what is left.
The future is bleak for those whose weight has not picked as the feeding program supports malnutrition children for 59 months.

“The supplementary feeding program supports children until they are four years of age,” says Mbunye
Baraka was diagnosed with acute malnutrition when he was six months old and has been on the feeding program ever since.
He had deviated from the norm in both height and weight by a negative four in the linear scale and put on the high impact nutrition feeding program, first as an inpatient then afterwards during regular visits to the clinic.
Children on the feeding program are expected to graduate after four feeding cycles when they have regained their body weight and normal health.

At 51 months he is about to finish his cycle but with little improvement in his health he is faced with the challenge of stunted development throughout his entire life.
Malnutrition is a common phenomenon in Mizingo like in many rural areas where poverty reigns and where having unbalanced diet is better than having no food at all.
Many families depend on relief foods from the government and donor agency for their daily provisions but poor infrastructure and corrupt individuals have also made the rations minimal.
For now Baraka and Salama are counting their luck for being in the system that has provided the food that benefits the hungry mouths around them.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SmattaKenya News — iRadeo

SmattaKenya News — iRadeo


Lack of knowledge about the management of sickle cell among coastal residents has led to the continued suffering of children born with the disease.

Renowned pediatrician Dr. Rachael Kariuki noted that a large number of sickler children particularly those in rural settings continued to suffer in silence because of their parents’ ignorance and misinformation.

“Most parents are too scared to acknowledge the disease and some even lock up their children because they find it too embarrassing,” she said

Dr. Kariuki said that the current situation was unacceptable considering the fact that the region was among the places with high prevalence rates.

“The gravity of the situation is not realized yet people from the Coast and Nyanza regions are more predisposed to have the sickle gene than those in central,” said she

She lamented that though 3 out of every 1000 people suffer from sickle cell coastal superstitions and poverty have restricted the access to healthcare.

“Many children from poor households die of late diagnosis or die without being diagnosed even though sickle cell is an ordinary disease that can be managed like malnutrition and trauma,” she explained.

Though there is no known cure for the disease that causes red blood cells to form a rigid sickle shape and reduces the lifespan from the normal 120 days to between 10 and 20 days, advancement in technology and Medicare has helped bring comfort and normalcy in sickler children

Doctors normally prescribe medication to manage the disease and prevent severe complications. These drugs help increase the production of blood cells, manage pain and reduce the risk of certain infections. Parents are also advised to seek medical attention whenever their children suffer from attacks when the abnormal cells clog blood vessels.

Some developed countries have looked to bone marrow transplants to provide a normal life for sicklers, though the high cost, technicalities of finding the perfect match and the possibility that the child’s body might reject the transplanted bone marrow have made it less appealing.

Dr. Kariuki reiterated that unlike before where sickler children were condemned to dying early, modern medicine available in Kenya can help them grow to lead normal lives with medication and vaccination to prevent attacks.

“The oldest known person living with sickle cell in Kenya is 65 years, so there is hope for the little ones,” she said.