East Africa crisis cafod.org.uk/kenyacrisis Throughout large parts of this vast region, up to 3.8 million families are facing chronic food and water shortages as persistent drought claims their crops and animals.
In Kenya, the search for water has become an endless task. Lariyon Eisimgar (centre of picture), a Rendille herder, says: “The pressure is too much. This morning I’ve already used six wells, and I’ll use five more before I’m done. We are struggling because the water is little. I'm raising my hand to God and asking why is it like this?"
Huge areas of Kenya such as Marsabit, Isiolo, Maralal, Samburu, Kitui and Kajiado have all suffered total devastation. Entire herds of animals have died from sheer exhaustion and thirst, leaving families without their main supply of food and income.
In desperation some families are using dirty water, which can lead to fatal outbreaks of cholera. Anthony Muheria, Bishop of Kitui, says the Catholic hospital in Mutomo, Kenya treated 200 cases of cholera in just one week – and more could be on the way. He says: “Some see rains as a ray of hope, but they may not be the blessing they seem. Heavy downpours increase the spread of diseases such as cholera.”
Mutindi Maithya, a farmer and mother of seven, is one of many whose land is now totally barren, leaving her totally reliant on help from our partner the Diocese of Kitui. “ Last year I got nothing, no harvest at all. It was the same the two years before that as well. “ Everything I have is from the diocese, especially food. The Church can’t leave me because without it I know I would die.”
Families still trying to work their land face a long wait until the next harvest. Mutuo David and her eldest son Gabriel are planting seeds given by our partner the Diocese of Kitui. She says: “Life without this help would be even harder. ”
Over the border in Eritrea, a long, snaking queue of mothers and children wait to receive a monthly food ration of nutritional porridge flour. Extra food is provided to the most vulnerable - malnourished children under five, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
All the children are measured and weighed regularly by nutrition staff from our local partner organisation but, d espite such support, cases of diarrhoea and malnutrition in Eritrea are still on the rise.
Weine Madhin and her two young daughters are being helped by extra food rations. She says: “Normally at this time people share some food, but this year there is no harvest. “My youngest daughter is anaemic; the nurse told me to give her vitamins and good food. How can I?”
A family of five’s food ration only allows them to buy five bread rolls a day and ten kilos of grain a month . Zahara’s son Zubeir is malnourished but, as she says: “It is impossible not to share some of the ration with other children as they simply have no other food.”
Thankfully, mothers such as Weine and Zahara can learn a lot from Weldegabir Tesfe - a health promoter working with our Eritrean partner who teaches them how to prepare food safely and how to recognise signs of malnutrition. He also registers all the mothers to ensure they receive proper rations.
The World Bank says Kenya is one of the countries that will face more droughts now because of climate change. Fergus Conmee, CAFOD head of humanitarian programmes, says: “Droughts are so frequent and so severe now that communities lurch from one crisis to the next, without any time to recover.”
We are also helping improve people’s resilience to drought, with early warning systems, drought-resistant crops, and sustainable land use. But more money is urgently needed to continue this vital work. For more information, see cafod.org.uk/kenyacrisis Photo credits: Bridget Burrows, Laura Donkin, Alessandra Magri, Thomas Omondi