Although abundant rains have fallen throughout Kenya, previously drought-stricken areas of the country are still in the midst of a food crisis because crops can not be harvested until June. Maize, Kenya's mainstay food, will not be available for harvest until August. Until then, these communities will continue to rely on humanitarian aid for daily sustenance and survival.
In February, Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) expanded its emergency assistance in Kenya during the drought and will continue providing aid until crops can be harvested in June.
The most vulnerable to fall prey to a food crisis or famine conditions are children, the elderly and nursing mothers, especially among pastoralists and farmers in rural areas.
Most areas in Kenya experienced a prolonged drought beginning in 2004. As a result of the drought, which affected 10 percent of Kenya’s population in 22 of the 27 affected districts, food reserves began to dissipate.
As food reserves disappeared, 11 million people were threatened by starvation in Eastern Africa, including 3.5 million people in Kenya alone. Five hundred thousand of those affected by the food crisis in Kenya are children.
CCF broadened its assistance in Kenya to provide more than 66,000 of the most vulnerable children with supplemental feedings and water to counter the malnutrition that is visible everywhere.
“The food crisis does not seem to be getting the world’s attention perhaps because of the other major emergencies that have occurred during the past year," said CCF Emergency Director Christie Scott. "Yet this food crisis is affecting millions."
CCF is using its Early Childhood Development centers to monitor the health status of children, mothers and the elderly in 60 communities in the Eastern Province (Marsabit, Isiolo, Tharaka, Mbere, Meru S. Mwingi, Kitui, Machakos and Makueni) and in the Rift Valley Province (Turkana, Samburu, Kajiado, Narok, Baringo, Marakuet and Keiyo). Part of that monitoring includes de-worming and distribution of Vitamin A supplement.
And CCF will continue to rehabilitate, construct and maintain water sources for six districts (Isiolo, Tharaka, Mbere, Samburu, Kajiado and Turkana).
In addition, the organization is providing basic health and hygiene instruction to help parents avoid diseases in children whose immune systems are weakened by lack of food and water.
The first signs of water and food shortages were carcasses of livestock that littered the roadsides.
Tens of thousands of cattle and other livestock died in Kenya during the drought. Kenyans prize their livestock because, for many pastoralists, cattle are a sole source of livelihood and major source of food. To see animals abandoned or dead is a sure sign of a tenuous situation.
The obvious signs of malnutrition in children were seen in all affected communities. As a result of inadequate protein, children showed the signs of Kwashiorkor: bloated belly, swelling of the joints, hair thinning and discolored along with stunted growth.
Supplementary feeding for young children and vulnerable adults, i.e. pregnant and lactating women and senior citizens, in CCF's Early Childhood Development centers throughout affected areas;
Monitoring the most vulnerable young children, mothers and elderly through early childhood development centers; those who are sick, orphaned and unable to access food will be identified and assisted;
Rehabilitation, construction and maintenance of water sources for six districts (Isiolo, Tharaka, Mbere, Samburu, Kajiado and Turkana);
Special assistance to ensure that all Early Childhood Development centers have adequate water;
Provide training and support to children and their parents about basic health and hygiene, including, de-worming and Vitamin A supplementation;
Child protection training to Early Childhood Development staff and parent committees so that they can develop a plan for addressing risks and and be a community resource on child protection issues.
CCF will also expand its interventions to include:
Seed distribution now that rain has come
Peace-building activities between pastoral tribes who are attempting to live on the same scarce water, food and grazing resources
CCF-Kenya is implementing a holistic program that will address the life-saving needs for food, water and health. CCF also strengthens and builds the capacity of communities to better cope with the food crisis through the provision of psychosocial, protection and livelihoods support.
“Because of so many other tragedies — the war in Iraq, the earthquake in Pakistan, the tsunami in Asia and Katrina’s devastation here at home — this major disaster is being overlooked," Scott added. "The world needs to react quickly or the result will be horrendous.
“The Government of Kenya declared an emergency in January, and has asked for the world’s help. Yet most people are unaware of what is happening. We have just a little time to react before the situation reaches unthinkable proportions."
CCF has been working in Kenya since 1960 where it assists approximately 1.4 million children and family members.