Children in Kenya

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CRS in Kenya

A drought in Eastern Africa has left millions in South Sudan, Kenya, and Somalia facing chronic hunger. Hundreds of thousands of children are acutely malnourished and need urgent nutritional support.

Catholic Relief Services is responding with emergency food aid, water and vocational training for the most vulnerable people, including those who have been displaced from their homes.

Kenya is a lower-middle-income country. The country has made significant political and economic reforms that have contributed to sustained economic growth, social development, and political stability over the past decade. The COVID-19 shock adversely impacted Kenya’s economy. The closure of schools, restrictions on movement, bans on social gatherings, and limited economic activities caused loss of income and increased food insecurity.

Economic recovery is underway, following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Kenya’s long-term development agenda Vision 2030 and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda which prioritizes manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing, and food security, outline and inform the country’s development priorities.

Development challenges persist, including poverty, climate change, food insecurity and weak healthcare outcomes leading to relatively high rates of poverty. To overcome these challenges, CRS empowers local partners across sectors and works with the government to build community resilience and prosperity through practical, evidence-based programs.

CRS has worked in Kenya since 1965 and is one of the oldest humanitarian relief and development organizations in the country. The Nairobi based country program has over 100 staff in offices in Nairobi, Marsabit, Isiolo, Kisumu and Kilifi.

CRS’ current programming portfolio features projects in social services for children and families, agriculture and lLivelihoods, health, water and sanitation and peacebuilding. In fiscal year 2020, we touched a total of 5,383,224 lives directly and indirectly.

CRS’s approach to delivering outcomes at scale is facilitative, focusing on partnerships, capacity building and a commitment to local leadership. We work through local implementing partners and collaborate closely with Government of Kenya stakeholders. The portfolio of current and recent CRS programs illustrates our commitment to fostering subsidiarity through capacity strengthening.

The country program’s current portfolio is aligned with CRS’ agency-wide Vision 2030 strategy, with goal areas focused on

  • Ensuring people live in just and peaceful societies

  • Helping people survive and thrive in the face of disasters

  • Helping people achieve dignified and resilient livelihoods

  • Ensuring children reach their full potential in safe and nurturing families

  • Empowering youth to thrive  

CRS Kenya is a safe and joyous working environment where respect, equity, diversity and inclusion promotes trust, solidarity and commitment to deliver high quality programs for lasting change to the vulnerable people we serve.

The East Africa Regional Office is also located in Nairobi, hosting both regional and global staff.


Addressing Acute Malnutrition through Collaborative, Multi-Sectoral Approaches: USAID Nawiri is a five-year research, development, and resilience program, undertaken in close collaboration with Isiolo and Marsabit County governments, to address persistent malnutrition in locally led, sustainable ways. CRS has engaged communities, the county governments of Isiolo and Marsabit, formal and informal institutions, peer agencies, civil society and the private sector in collaborative research, and pilot programs to strengthen the evidence based on more innovative and impactful approaches. The program is now transitioning from research to the implementation phase. Nawiri will now use the research and learning outcomes to co-design and support the implementation of County government and local actor-led approaches to reduce acute malnutrition and sustainably address its systemic drivers and underlying causes.

USAID Nawiri in the media

  1. Launch of the Marsabit County gender and social protection policies
  2. Launch of the e-CIMES platform in Isiolo County
  3. Longitudinal study by the County Government of Isiolo and USAID Nawiri
  4. Data validation workshop by the County Government of Isiolo and USAID Nawiri
  5. Launch the Adapted Nutrition-Friendly Graduation Model-Cash Transfers and Business Grants by the County Government of Isiolo and USAID Nawiri
  6. Breast milk the best for babies, benefits society.


Increasing Access to Clean Water and Sanitation: From 2015 through 2021, CRS was a partner in a consortium led by Millennium Water Alliance on the Kenya RAPID program, funded by USAID and Swiss Development Corporation. CRS applied a facilitative approach to raise the accountability and ownership of Turkana and Isiolo Counties for delivering clean water and sanitation services to their citizens. CRS facilitated the passage and implementation of the Water and Sanitation Policy, bill, rules and regulations for Isiolo and Turkana. Additionally, the project enabled new private sector partners to engage in WASH services delivery and financial assistance in the two counties. In 2021, CRS is expanding its WASH portfolio in northern and western Kenya, focusing on technologies such as multiple-use water systems, pre-paid meters, solar powered water abstraction, remote borehole monitoring, and integrated water resource management.

Additional five-year funding has been awarded during for this project to ensure a responsive and accountable governance framework is in place and operational at county government level. This will ensure sustainable provision of water and pasture, that replicable and scalable business models for sustainable WASH and livestock service delivery have been developed and operationalized, and communities have increased access to sustainable WASH services and improved rangeland management. 

During this year, CRS has been awarded jointly with partners, the USAID WK WASH project to be implemented over five years. CRS’s scope is in WASH financing, private sector engagement and governance, specifically to accelerate professionalization and regulation of rural water services for sustainable provision of clean and safe drinking water; increase uptake of alternative financing options for improved and expanded services; and enhancing private sector engagement for improved services. 

Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children: CRS commitment to supporting local leadership was central to our Making Well-informed Efforts to Nurture Disadvantaged Orphans and Vulnerable Children (MWENDO OVC) program, on which CRS worked through 42 local implementing partners. MWENDO ran from 2017 through 2021 and was PEPFAR’s largest OVC project worldwide. MWENDO’s overall objective was to improve the welfare and protection of children affected by HIV in Kenya. Implemented in 18 of Kenya’s 47 counties, it reached more than 640,000 people with life-saving services. Through MWENDO, CRS also strengthened key components of the child protection and justice systems within the county governments, including workforce, service delivery, referrals and coordination mechanisms, accountability, and budgeting. Following MWENDO’s closure, CRS continues to provide capacity building support, and technical assistance to the local partners now leading OVC service delivery.

Catalyzing Government Support for Care Reform: The Changing the Way we Care (CTWWC) team in Kenya is part of a global initiative to transition vulnerable children out of residential care and into family and community-based care. In Kenya, CRS has worked closely with the Department of Children Services and National Council of Children’s Services to advance a national care reform strategy, which now has the full support of the government. CTWWC also works in demonstration counties, including Kilifi, Kisumu, Nyamira and Siaya, where local partners deliver safe, nurturing family care for children who are currently in residential care and those at risk of separation.

In 2020, CTWWC added the ‘Inclusive Family Strengthening’ (IFS) component to directly address community- and household-level drivers of family separation. With the IFS component, CTWWC adds a more intensive focus on household and community-level family strengthening initiatives, including a special focus on including children with disabilities, promoting positive parenting techniques, and activities focused on strengthening households economically.

You can learn more at the Changing the Way We Care website.

CTWWC in the media

i.Why family set-up is the best place for any child

ii.Care reforms – Adoption


Early Childhood Development: The Strengthening Capacity of Religious Women in Early Childhood Development — SCORE ECD project — is building the capacity of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) and its congregations to expand the provision of quality early childhood development services. CRS is working with congregations in ECD, organizational sustainability, networking, and learning and enhancing a culture of care and support for children aged two years and below so that they attain age-appropriate developmental milestones through nurturing care. 

During this year, Phase III of the SCORE ECD project has been approved and will be implemented over three years. This multi country program is implemented in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Ghana. In Kenya, the project will support the sustainability and leadership of National Associations and Congregations of Catholic Sisters (NACCS) in Kenya, to deliver high-quality iMBC/ECD and health services with an overall goal of ensuring that children 0-3 years old in the target areas live in nurturing environments by 2024.


Emergency Response: CRS has a long history of responding to emergencies in Kenya. In the past year alone, this has included responding to droughts, floods, the desert locust invasion, and the COVID-19 pandemic. As with our development programs, our humanitarian response is strengthened by leveraging our existing relationships with key stakeholders in government and civil society. For instance, we have integrated our response to the 2021 drought in Marsabit and Isiolo with our work on Nawiri, supplementing project funds with CRS’ own contribution to deliver a market-based relief package for vulnerable pastoralists. Similarly, our response to the desert locust invasion earlier this year used Nawiri’s ability to integrate with efforts led by the county government on restoring affected grazing lands. CRS’ Locust Response Project also trained youths on rangeland rehabilitation and community sensitization for management of future invasions.

CRS’ approach of leveraging relationships has been particularly effective in responding to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2017, CRS has worked as a partner on the Core Group Polio Project (CGPP), supporting community-based polio surveillance efforts in targeted communities in Nairobi and Marsabit. As such, CRS maintains close ties with the Ministry of Health, and the disease surveillance unit. When the first COVID-19 cases were detected in Kenya, we leveraged our CGPP to the most acutely felt needs of the Ministry of Health, providing training and support on infection prevention and control measures in Nairobi and Kisumu. We first applied our own resources, followed by the Coronavirus IPC Activity, funded by the ELMA Relief Foundation. In 2020, CRS integrated COVID responses into Nawiri, MWENDO, SCORE ECD, Changing the Way We Care, and Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN) activities. In 2021, CRS is funding another COVID program, this time supporting Kisumu and Nairobi on their accelerated vaccination campaigns through training and community outreach.


Emerging Priorities

CRS has identified emerging areas for additional growth, reflecting areas of great current importance for Kenya:

  • Youth Employment: CRS is a partner on the Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN) in Mombasa, which has a unique place-based approach to catalyzing systemic shifts across coalitions of youth employment stakeholders. 

  • Climate Change Adaptation: Implemented in partnership with the Diocese of Lodwar, the Enhancing Community-Based Climate Adaptation in Turkana project supports livelihood diversification in seven communities that are vulnerable to climate change.

  • Mitigating Elections Violence: Ahead of the 2022 general election in Kenya, CRS is partnering with the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) to operationalize early warning response mechanisms and further civic education efforts in potential hotspot counties.


Commercial Fodder Production Business Grants Hay Cultivation Improving Nutrition



Climate Change Mitigation  Children with Disabilities



Kenyan teen
Helping Children Live Out Their Dreams

We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to live out their dreams. That’s why, with the support of PEPFAR and USAID, we’re helping children living with HIV to adhere to their ARVs, stay strong and stay in school. Learn more.




Photo by Will Baxter/CRS



People served: 2,262,358

Population: 47,615,739

Size: 224,081 sq mi; slightly more than twice the size of Nevada

CRS' History in Kenya

CRS has been working in Kenya since 1965. Initial operations focused on emergency relief following droughts and food shortages. We also established maternal and child health programs to help reduce high infant mortality rates. Over the years, the agency's focus has shifted to a comprehensive development program that works through partners and strengthens local capacity. CRS programs respond to emergencies, support children orphaned by HIV, build community-based efforts to increase household incomes, improve family health and sanitation, and enhance agriculture.