Preventing famine in Kenya’s villages, one child at a time

Published 12th June 2017

By Jelle Boone

Emma and her husband Lekhison run a primary school for 30 children in Ngaredare, a remote village in northern Kenya. Every day they grow more concerned about the drought that has gripped swathes of east Africa.

“From August, when the last river will be dried out, I expect dramatic scenes,” says Emma. “I hold my heart for the children.”

In Kenya, around 2.6 million people are facing the threat of famine. The drought has not only wiped out livestock but has also lead to increased tensions between communities. Families are being forced to flee their homes due to drought, food shortages and violence. Women and children are increasingly at risk.

Doctors of the World has launched an emergency project in Kenya’s Isiolo county, in order to find and treat malnourished children, pregnant women, and new mothers. We believe we can prevent a famine if we act now. You can support this work by clicking here.

Our teams are visiting Isiolo’s remote villages and settlements to provide malnutrition screening and treatment, while referring severely malnourished people to local hospitals. We have focused on areas that are not yet receiving any humanitarian aid.

“The drought we are seeing this year has been one of the worst since 1945. The rains last November failed, and the rains failed again this April-May,” says Lucy Obolensky, a British doctor who spent a month volunteering in Isiolo this spring to set up our new project.

“In the communities that we have visited in response to the drought, we are picking up cases of malnutrition, but what we are really trying to do is prevent them falling into acute malnutrition”, says Lucy. “We are trying preventative programs, particularly for the children and the pregnant women.”

No more rains are predicted until October and it is anticipated that some parts of Kenya could reach emergency levels of need in the coming months. The food shortages also leave people vulnerable to cholera outbreaks, life-threatening stomach conditions, and measles.

“As a result of the drought, we must move further south, further from our native region, to find further grassland for our goats,” says Asya, a woman who received food supplements and vitamin A from the Doctors of the World team.

“My husband is often forced away for days with our animals to graze them. We can still survive with the food we have but I’m very worried about the future. We cannot continue to run.”

Doctors of the World’s team is visiting settlements in and around the villages of Ngaredare and Gotu each week. We check children for signs of malnutrition and, if necessary, start treatment. Between the settlements, which are usually temporary camps of nomadic shepherds, there is often an hour’s ride by 4×4 along rough terrain.

In addition, our team also provides first aid for people who are often several days’ walk away from the nearest medical centre. An estimated 2.9 million Kenyans urgently need medical care, but in remote and rural communities access to even basic healthcare is scarce.

Back at the school, Emma continues to worry about the months ahead and her pupils’ fates. “Many will probably flee, others will suffer hunger. Our own livestock will probably not survive,” she says. “Chances are that we will have to close our school after 12 years. And I do not know if I will find the courage to reopen it.”

You can save a life today. Please donate £8.41 to help treat a child facing acute malnutrition.


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