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With severe drought gripping many parts of East Africa, millions of people are facing possible starvation in the coming months. David O’Hare from Trócaire recently returned from northern Kenya where he saw the impact of the crisis on people there.
Mary (pictured above) has eight family members that she cares for. She said her whole family is hungry. The drought has killed their animals and because she is blind there is no other work she can do to earn money for food like gathering firewood or making baskets.
This vital aid was targeting particularly vulnerable groups including the elderly, people with disabilities and those living with HIV. Some of the people had walked for hours in the burning sun to get to the distribution point. There they waited patiently to receive quantities of maize and beans. The people living with HIV received some fruit as well to help their medication work effectively.
Florence is a single mother with four children and is among the most vulnerable experiencing the impacts of the drought in Turkana. The baby was weighed at the clinic and he was around 7.5lbs – the weight associated with a typical newborn here at home. Esinyen is eight months old.
Both Florence and the baby are HIV positive and have been receiving medical support at the centre. She lost her husband three years ago and has since become destitute with no means of earning a living for her four children.
The health of both Florence and the baby had deteriorated drastically when they were first brought to the health centre but the life-saving medical support they received made a great difference. Their health has improved since then but the current drought is threatening to undo that progress.
Many of the children are very obviously malnourished. It is estimated that 500,000 children under the age of five in Kenya are at risk of severe malnutrition in the coming months.
The clinic weighs and examines the children.
The mothers of those who are identified as high-risk are given ‘Unimix’ to feed their children. This is a high protein, high vitamin supplement. The children are brought here once a month and this will continue until they are five years old so their progress can be monitored and any necessary support given.
The centre is home to 200 children. Some are orphans but others had been sent away to the town by their families in the rural areas because they simply didn’t have enough food to feed them because of the drought. The children end up living on the street and would have been at great risk from violence and exploitation if not for the centre.
Pastoralist people are seeing their animals perish because of a lack of water and grazing due to the prolonged drought. One local told us that when the camels start dying you know the situation is critical.
The school usually has 1,400 pupils but only half have returned after the recent holiday. The drought has meant children are having to tend what animals are still alive while parents search for food or work. Those that do attend school find it hard to concentrate because they are hungry.
Watch UTV News from Monday 15 May for a week-long series of reports of the drought and food crisis in Kenya and East Africa.