One in every four adults aged between 18 and 69 is obese, a report by the Ministry of Health shows.
The report shows that women are the most affected at 39 per cent compared to 18 per cent of men.
Kirinyaga county leads in the number of obese and overweight women at 54.4 per cent, followed by Nyeri at 49.2 per cent, Mombasa at 48.2 per cent, Murang’a at 47.3 per cent and Kiambu at 45.7 per cent.
On the other hand, nine per cent of women aged between 15 and 49 are undernourished, the report shows.
The data also shows that one in every four children under five years in the country is stunted.
This means that out of 7.2 million children under five years, 1.8 million are stunted. That represents 26 per cent.
At least 290,000 (four per cent) of children under five are wasted, meaning they are too thin for their heights.
Some 794,200 (11 per cent) are underweight while four per cent are overweight.
The high level of malnutrition in the country has been attributed to low dietary intake, diseases, food security, child care practices, environmental hygiene and safety, policy environment and social protection system.
“Some 32.6 per cent of preschool children and 37.6 per cent of school-age children suffer from marginal vitamin A deficiency. It is easy for community health volunteers to ensure these numbers come down,” Bashir Isaak, a physician at the Ministry of Health, said.
According to the data, 41.6 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic, while 26.8 per cent of preschool children are anaemic. This represents one in every four children.
“The majority of the population is zinc deficient regardless of age, sex, residence or income. Major causal factors of micronutrient malnutrition are inadequate access to a variety of foods, lack of knowledge on optimal dietary practices and high incidence of infectious diseases,” Isaak said.
The most common deficiencies among the Kenyan population include iron, folate, zinc, iodine and vitamin A.
Experts warn that undernourished children have a higher risk of illness and death.
In school, these children often suffer from low IQ, poor performance, absenteeism and repetition of classes.
It is estimated that Kenya loses Sh374 billion annually (6.9 per cent of the DGP) due to child malnutrition.
The country has however made some progress towards achieving its nutrition targets.
For instance, the level of stunting has been reduced from 35 per cent in 2009 to 26 per cent in 2014, child wasting has reduced from seven to four per cent and increase in rates of exclusive breastfeeding from 32 to 61 per cent.
“Despite these milestones, regional disparities exist, with some counties reporting high levels of malnutrition. Additionally, micronutrient deficiencies remain a public health concern, especially for women and children,” Health CAS Rashid Aman said.
“In order for the country to achieve the sustainable development goals and Vision 2030, nutrition must be given greater priority.”
The ministry is coordinating the implementation of the multi-sector Kenya Nutrition Action Plan 2018-22 whose objective is to accelerate and scale up efforts towards elimination of all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Edited by A.N