USA First Lady Dr. Jill Biden Visits World Vision Nutrition Outreach Programme in Kajiado, Kenya
By Martin Muluka, Emergency Communications Specialist, World Vision Kenya
World Vision was honoured to host the First Lady of the United States of America (USA), Dr.Jill Biden, during her visit to Kenya.
While in the country, she visited a nutrition outreach programme run by the organisation in Lesoit, Kajiado County.
This is among the drought-hit areas in Kenya, where World Vision is implementing a USD 10 million hunger response initiative known as the Kenya Integrated Emergency Response Project (KIERP) that is funded by the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).
The project is targeting 330,000 people with humanitarian assistance in Kenya's Kajiado, Makueni, Kitui, Kwale, Tana River and Kilifi counties.
While speaking to the media and development partners during the visit, Dr.Biden emphasised the need for concerted efforts in supporting communities affected by drought.
She also got an opportunity to see first-hand, the devastating impact of the drought on vulnerable children, families and communities.
“I have seen that one source of water here serves 12 villages and each has approximately 1000 people. Families come here to get water and they bring their livestock. Many of these people make a living from livestock, which is now dying.They are having a hard time. Their children are malnourished and they cannot feed them,” said Dr. Jill Biden.
Reiterating the need for concerted efforts to adequately support vulnerable rural communities to effectively deal with the drought, Dr. Biden added, “The United States of America is providing 70% of the resources or money that is coming into this region. But we cannot be the only ones. We need to have other countries join us in the global effort to help these people [communities affected by drought].”
In spite of competing interests in global emergencies, Dr.Biden noted that it was still important for countries to pay attention to communities affected by the drought.
“Obviously, people here are actually starving and livestock is dying,” she said.
The First Lady was accompanied by the USA Ambassador to Kenya, Margaret Whitman, during her visit to the World Vision's nutrition outreach programme in Kajiado County.
She underscored Dr. Biden’s rallying cry for everyone to help.
“We read in reports that there are millions of people affected by drought but it is different when you just see it. Each of the women we have talked to, have taken their children to the feeding stations we saw earlier and they have been evaluated for malnutrition," said Whitman.
Gilbert Kamanga, the National Director for World Vision Kenya noted that thousands of families affected by the drought are in dire need of support.
“We have been in this community for a long time, implementing emergency response projects like nutrition outreach programmes, water trucking services and rehabilitation of water sources. We also provide lifesaving commodities to those affected, especially expectant mothers, lactating women and children, so as to save them from malnutrition,” he said.
According to Gilbert, Dr.Biden's visit came at the right time.
"We are honoured as World Vision to have the First Lady of USA joining us for this nutrition outreach programme. Her visit is significant because she has brought attention to the impact of drought on communities in the Horn of Africa, especially Kenya. This is an important visit that has come at the right time, when we are calling upon the donor community to support us here in Kenya, to enable us respond with agility and purpose," he said.
A day after Dr. Biden’s visit (on Monday, February 27, 2023) the USAID announced that it is providing more than USD126 million to go towards additional food assistance to the people of Kenya, as the ongoing drought leaves more than four million people in the grip of a dire hunger crisis. This number is expected to rise to over five million by June 2023.
This is good news to communities affected by the ongoing drought because the funds will facilitate the scaling-up of drought response interventions in Kenya.
The announcement has brought smiles to residents of drought-hit Kajiado County, such as Kereya who would have lost her children to the ravages of malnutrition, had it not been for the timely nutrition supplements that they received from one of World Vision's nutrition outreach programmes.
"My four-year-old son called Sein and my one-year-old daughter called Abigail were diagnosed with malnutrition. Thanks to the support of World Vision, Sein has fully recovered and is very happy. Abigail is on the road to recovery," she says with a beaming smile.
The additional funds from the USAID is therefore a good sign that many more children and families - threatened by hunger and water shortage - will receive the much needed support during these hard times.