Samira Massir has a thick folder full of successes. She turns to any page. You can see the photos of a baby. On the first shot, it’s so thin that the bones stick out. Arms and legs look like twigs, so fragile. Massir points to the second shot next to this picture. It’s the same kid, but looks completely different: glowing skin, chubby cheeks, chubby arms. “There are four weeks between the recordings,” says the nutritionist, and her voice sounds proud.
She nursed this child along with hundreds of others in her binder. Some came to her as skeletons in the “Nutrition Center” in the Mathare slum, a few kilometers from the center of the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Some were so swollen from malnutrition that they could hardly see their limbs. Now they are in the “Feeding Programme” of the German Doctors, for whose commitment in Nairobi the FAZ readers can donate this year. The nutrition program is intended to counteract deficiency symptoms and prevent starvation.
But Samira Massir has a problem: Plumpy’nut is over. This is the miracle cure behind the transformation of the children. They are sachets with a peanut paste so high in energy that a small sachet replaces a meal. The mixture of nuts, milk and vitamins contains 500 kilocalories. The emaciated children sometimes get five of them a day. No wonder that after three to four weeks they have gained a lot.
The supply chains are disrupted by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. This can be seen everywhere in Kenya: There is a lack of medicine and special food, and it is simply no longer available. But staple foods can also become scarce: “Sometimes we don’t get any rice for weeks,” says George Audi, the country director of the German Doctors in the East African country. And what is available is more expensive than ever – the prices react to the world situation. If a ship with a few hundred tons of grain sinks in the port of Odessa and European buyers then pay a higher price for the scarce commodity, the Kenyans can no longer keep up.
Drought and pandemic are causing problems for people
Samira Massir still has a few bags of Plumpy’nut. She only gives them to children who, in addition to being underweight, also have tuberculosis or are HIV-positive. For the others, their parents can queue down on the ground floor of the “Nutrition Center” for a portion of rice with beans. The German Doctors serve 500 portions there every day. In the neighboring Korogocho slum, where the people are even poorer, there are just as many.
The residents of Korogocho, who mostly live off the gigantic dump at the foot of which the slum has grown, have been particularly hard hit by the impact of the pandemic. From one day to the next, airlines and hotels stopped dumping food waste in the landfill. For the garbage collectors, who depend on the leftovers to survive, the supply collapsed.
Hunger is currently the greatest challenge for the people of Kenya. This is how George Audi assesses it. This is due to the supply chains and the pandemic, which has also caused many to lose their jobs and with them the little money they used to have to live on. But it is also due to the drought that has been gripping East Africa for several years. In the north, the herds of the farmers who bring in one bad harvest after the other are dying. This is reported by aid organizations such as World Vision. “Five million Kenyans are starving right now,” says nutritionist Samira Massir.
Hunger changed a lot. Before the pandemic, George Audi was dispensing 350 servings a day in Nairobi. This year he actually used up his budget for food in August. He spends almost 50,000 euros a month on feeding the slum dwellers who would otherwise starve.