hunger kenya covid
An adult went hungry in just under 50 per cent of households in May–June, which decreased to 28 per cent in October–November last year, the World Bank data shows.

An increasing number of people in Kenya are not putting away money for a rainy day as they burn through their savings to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, a study by the World Bank on coping mechanisms by Kenyan households over the past year shows that households are largely relying on savings in the face of job cuts or even sleeping on an empty stomach.

An adult went hungry in just under 50 per cent of households in May–June, which decreased to 28 per cent in October–November last year.

Some tried to reduce the amount of food consumed and cut off luxury items such as clothes as the pandemic reared ugly face.

The study shows that between May and June 2020, households relied on their savings and drastically cut their food consumption.

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By July to September 2020, as the pandemic continued, the reduction of food and non-food consumption became more prevalent with over half of households reducing their non-food consumption.

An increasing share of households also sought additional income generating activities in the period between July and September.

Between October and November 2020, most Kenyan homes had cut down on consumption so much that fewer households relied on reducing food and non-food consumption.

This has continued this year despite a slight recovery in the economy between January and March 2021, relying on savings became the most common coping mechanism in early 2021 likely facilitated by slighht uptick in employment; households also sought additional income generating mechanisms.

The pandemic resulted in huge losses of employment, dropping from 71 per cent of the population in the last quarter of 2019 to 50 per cent in May–June 2020.

However, the situation has improved, with employment increasing to 66 per cent in January–March 2021.

The study shows that unemployment has halved from 18 per cent in October–November 2020 to 9 per cent in January–March 2021.

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Kenya’s savings culture has not been robust even before the pandemic with a majority of those employed living from hand to mouth due to poor pay and high inflation which pushes up the cost of goods and services.

The Kenya Economic Report 2020 showed that savings rate declined to an all-time low of 8 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2019.

That was the lowest savings rate recorded since 2002 at the end of the tenuous 24-year rule under the late President Daniel Moi where the country’s savings rate stood at 8.5 per cent of the GDP.

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