Feature: Ravaging drought takes heavy toll on Kenyan women, children

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-05 23:27:30|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Ejidiah Wangui

NAIROBI, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Antonia Lelokong, a 28-year-old widow, bears the scorching sun in a small village in northern Kenya as she waited for her turn in the queue to receive her food ration.

The mother of two has since February been relying on these food rations to feed her young family as the region has been listed among the worst drought-hit in the East African country.

Lelokong is among thousands of women and children who have been put on relief assistance in the region as Kenya experienced two consecutive seasons of failed rains in 2016.

"Were it not for the relief assistance, my children would have starved to death. I lost my husband a few months ago so I don't have anyone to depend on," said Lelokong with her two children in tow and an infant strapped on her back.

Through donations raised by ChildFund Kenya, an international child development organization, Lelokong is assured of having something to feed her children on daily.

ChildFund Kenya has so far raised more than 1.3 million U.S. dollars in its efforts to provide relief assistance to distressed children and mothers in Kenya especially in the northern region.

According to Anne Goddard, ChildFund International president, even though the organization is yet to meet its target of raising 2.3 million dollars to help the hunger-stricken regions, the amount raised so far has helped put 88,000 women and children in various regions on relief assistance.

"Additional funding is needed so we can fully implement the emergency response and mitigate risks of a worsening drought situation in some parts of the country," said Goddard.

Since February, ChildFund has distributed over 3,734 tonnes of food items including unimix flour, corn soya blend, plumpy sups, maize, beans, rice, cooking oil and salt in different regions.

In Samburu County, home of Kenya's nomadic pastoralists, ChildFund has distributed over 49 tonness of food items to 3,298 people, including 2,155 children in 79 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers and 1,143 pregnant and lactating women.

But even as such organizations continue with their efforts to rescue starving Kenyans, the number of those in need of relief assistance continues to grow by the day.

Harold Kimenchu for instance, lost his 78-year-old mother recently and the final diagnosis from her physician was starvation.

His worry now is who the hunger will claim next in his family as he can barely afford a meal a day to feed his family of eight.

"I'm a mason and my income is barely enough to feed the family, my wife has been helping but now due to the ongoing drought, there are no jobs in the farms where she used to work," he explained to Xinhua.

His two-acre piece of land sparks no hope for the 48-year-old father as all the crops he planted around March have dried up.

"We have no hopes of harvesting anything from our farms as all we planted has dried up, the situation has been worsened by the fact that last year we didn't manage to get any harvests from our farms either," said Kimenchu.

Kenya's capital Nairobi has not eluded the hunger situation either. Thousands of residents living in the city's informal settlements are among those listed as in dire need of relief assistance.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the number of Kenyans in dire need of food stands at 3.5 million, up from the 2.7 million forecast in March.

The number of children under the age of five facing Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is estimated at 104,614.

If projections by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) are anything to go by, there could be an upsurge in Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) especially in regions classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) in October.

To avert the crisis, the NDMA recommends scaling up of supplementary feeding in worst hit areas as well as the provision of water and health services to curb breakouts of diseases such as cholera.