Hunger Crisis in Kenya

Food for my younger brother to eat is more important-Nadimi’s story

Food for my younger brother to eat is more important-Nadimi’s story

Walking steadily in a cautious way Nadimi, 5 years old, holds the hands of Lukwadok his younger brother aged either between two and half or three years old. On foot, heading towards a common venue under a tree, where a section of Kalapata community members meet quite often, to consult and comfort each other during the ongoing drought situation. The drought, that has impacted negatively on their livelihood and resilience making it difficult for the community to have access to food , clean and safe water.

A dire need of huger crisis situation that the community feels like no water and food is part ,has been part of their entire life. While keeping close to the sister, the hands of lukwadok are held tightly on two simple unhygienic plastic containers. Inside the containers is a mixture of local food,boiled beans and maize.

The two siblings were coming from Kakalel Primary school in kalapata area, in Turkana south sub-county located in Turkana County.They had received their daily amount of food portion from the school feeding program given out daily during the lunch hour school period. The age of the younger brother puts the aspect of his class attendance into question. When we inquire from Chief of kalapata location Philip Elimlim as to why children, not in school uniforms attend the primary school and at such a tender age? Mr. Elimlim response was to get food, as with the ongoing drought, for vulnerable children in the community, it is impossible for the family like Nadimi to even eat a simple meal or any if their is available daily.

The best alternative for vulnerable children is to be part of the school feeding program, even if they are enrolled in the primary school or not says Mr. Elimlim.

Nadimi says they barely cook at home. Their mother according to locals and confirmed by the chief, she is mentally disturbed and had taken their younger sibling to hospital. So we could not manage to get an interview from the mother. Their father is locked up in jail for unknown reasons from last year (2016).The family lives in kakalel village located in Turkana County in Kenya.

According to the Preliminary SMART Survey Report for February 2017, it stated that Turkana County is a drought prone and experiences frequent, successive and prolonged drought and cattle rustling. It is situated in the arid North-western region of the Kenya with an estimated total population of 1,341,972 as per the county estimates of 2016.The county is divided into seven sub counties and seventeen administrative divisions. The County has four main livelihood zones, that is pastoral (60%), agro pastoral (20%), fisher folks (12%) and urban or peri-urban formal and informal employments (8%).

Drought and Malnutrition 

As per my own observation, a closer look at the physical health state of the younger brother, it seems to be a matter of concern. He sits on the sisters lap, as he picks part of the meal “githeri” and eats it cautiously. The sister holds him tight as he watches the young brother devour his meal until it is over.

Even with that, food for her little brother to eat daily is more important for Nadimi. As per the SMART survey of June 2016, the estimated prevalence of GAM rate in turkana south sub county where kalapata is located was rated as 22.9 percent, while the

Global Underweight (GU) is rated at 34.8 percent.

Turkana county has reported emergency levels of Acute Malnutrition over the years, as per the SMART nutrition survey that showed little change in nutrition status. The Global Acute Malnutrition rates were ranging from 14.4 to 30.3 percent in the four survey zones indicating no change compared to a range of 16.7 to 24.5 percent in 2015.

The nutrition survey indicate the nutrition situation in emergency threshold or edge, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) classification. The nutrition survey would provide adequate evidence to guide response in nutrition, health, WASH and food security.

That is why Nadimi, has to make sure they are part of the pupils who receive the school feeding meals.  The siblings have to walk each and everyday in search of food, the best option is the local primary school. A scarce commodity during the ongoing drought, even as Mr. Elimlim, chief of the area attests that sometimes when there is no food the other option for children and the community at large is to eat a wild fruit called mukoma in swahili language. The Hyphaene compressa (mukoma) also known as the East African doum palm, is a palm tree in the genus Hyphaene.

 It is a tree known for its unique branching, unlike most palms which are not branched, the tree is very abundant in Eastern Africa and is a vital socio-economic resource to the rural pastoralist and agro-pastoralists in Kenya (wikipedia).

Wild foods

World Vision Kenya Associate Director of Livelihood and Resilience (L&R) Mr. Lawrence Kiguro confirms that Hyphaene compressa or “mukoma” is one of the wild foods eaten in the Arid and Semi Arid Areas (ASALs) areas as a hunger crop. According to Mr Kiguro he has tried to engage with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and International Centre for Research in Agroforestry in Kenya (ICRAF) to do proper research on wild fruits so that they are "domesticated" but it has become a challenge due to lack of funding and so the process is yet to be addressed in order to take the matter up for further research on wild fruits.

When I inquire from Nadimi what she would like someone to give her and the younger brother lukwadok, the first option is a pair of shoes, clothes and food. She says she does not have any school uniform to attend school due to poverty back home. She puts the same dress every single day, as her hand points to the grimy t-shirt she has on that was not presentable according to her own view. She puts on the same skirt daily to attend school. It was tattered and looked scruffy on the right hand side.

According to the December Drought Early Warning Bulletin by NDMA, Turkana County was in ‘Alarm’ early warning phase compared to the ‘Alert’ reported in November 2016. The vegetation Cover Index declined to below the normal average. All the other indicators such as livestock migration pattern, water availability, animal body condition, terms of trade, milk availability, and nutrition status were all off the mark from the normal averages.

Turkana County is currently in ‘late Alarm’ compared to the ‘early Alarm’ phase as reported in November 2016.


 Written by World Vision Kenya Communications Officer Zipporah Karani