Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

World Food Program Kicks Off 2nd Mix-Me Nutritional Supplement Survey

Posted in Health, Humanitarian Services by KANERE on December 22, 2009

Kakuma refugees express their concerns about the Mix-Me nutritional supplement provided by the World Food Program and UNHCR, demanding healthy, natural additions to the food ration basket.

The Mix-Me Nutritional Supplement baseline survey kicked off again in early August in Kakuma Refugee Camp, targeting young children, adolescent girls, and mothers. The purpose of the survey is to determine the outcome of the first survey conducted between January and February 2009.

Surveys are scheduled to be completed at six-month intervals, according to sources with the World Food Program (WFP) in Kakuma.

On a recent home visit, a community health worker stated that Mix-Me is a supplement of nutritious value that WFP and UNHCR have introduced into the camp with a view to lowering anemia rates. The WFP Mix-Me Team emphasizes the importance of this product to refugee communities across the camp through trainings and sensitization campaigns. 

A general meeting of Mix-Me staffs was organized in order to inform Mix-Me Team staff on the roles they would play during the survey. Many refugee incentive staff turned up to compete for limited positions, but the employment procedure remained unchanged and WFP stuck to their previous staffs.

WFP carried out a participatory information session on 3 and 4th of September, and the actual campaign continued through the 16th of September. The collected opinions, views, likes and dislikes expressed in the interviews with refugee communities will be used by WFP for product analysis.

Results indicate high anemia and malnutrition rates among locals

Before the second survey began, results were given of the first survey data collected during Mix-Me visits to homes and schools. In the actual survey, blood samples are taken from participants to determine the level of Hemoglobin (H.B.) that could indicate the presence of some infectious diseases such as AIDS. Height was also measured, and a hemoglobin test was used to indicate the level of malnutrition through anemia or polycythemia.

According to some health sources, higher rates of anemia are found among the local Turkana population because they are malnourished but have no access to the Mix-Me supplement given to refugees. This policy does not make sense to many Turkanas, who point out that refugees and locals are served equally in terms of free education, food, and medical care in the camp.

The WFP strongly encourages beneficiaries to use Mix-Me, saying that those who feed on Mix-Me could show improved rates of blood volume in a short time, while those who do not use Mix-Me are at risk of contracting anemia in the harsh climate of Kakuma.

“The results show that anemia rates differ greatly between the refugees and the local Turkanas. I have been working in the laboratory for a long time, and the results show that more locals are anemic and should be provided with Mix-Me,” said J.M., a staff member in IRC Clinic Four.

Refugees throw out Mix-Me sachets, creating new job opportunities

As Mix-Me continues to be handed out at monthly food distribution, a majority of refugees refuse to consume it. Many do not even pick up their allotted sachets from the food distribution center. As a result, the Mix-Me sachets are littered all over the camp.

Rather fortunately, this later creates employment opportunities for refugees who are hired to roam the camp collecting the discarded sachets. Workers wearing WFP uniforms are frequently spotted at the rubbish pits.

“I do not use Mix-Me and have never had interest. A lot of things have been said about Mix-Me, and WFP should be primarily accountable for its negative impacts in the long run. We can’t trust this product and I am only working to get money,” says one community health worker from Kakuma Two, Phase Two.

Many refugees are asking questions about Mix-Me. Refugees at Food Distribution Center One (FDC 1) proposed whole-food additions to the food ration rather than artificial supplements of Mix-Me. They appealed for important foods not found in the food basket—such as milk, vegetables, or meat—to be added to rations in lieu of exotic pre-market-trial supplements. It is important for UNHCR and WFP to stop providing Mix-Me, they say, and to increase the food rations through other food baskets.

Some refugee students described their observations at using Mix-Me for purposes besides feeding. “What surprised me the most was that when a sachet of Mix-Me is placed in the hot sun for a few minutes, the solar power turns its color, it melts, and then sticks like a glue on a surface. I wonder what could likely happen in the human stomach immediately or after years,” said W.U., a student at Kakuma Secondary School.

WFP refrains from comment

The percentage of refugees that uses Mix-Me is still very small. Desiring to learn some facts about this supplement, KANERE approached the WFP Offices on two different occasions, and both times the office declined an interview citing organizational policy. The WPF security guard behaved in an unfriendly manner towards one KANERE journalist. On a second day of attempted appointments, the Mix-Me co-ordination office referred the matter to other colleagues who failed to respond back to KANERE.

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