From tears of hunger to showers of blessings for children affected by prolonged drought
By Martin Muluka, Emergency Communications Specialist, World Vision Kenya
Eight-year-old Moses is all smiles and full of energy as he chases a football in Primary School in Ganze, Kilifi County, which is situated in coastal Kenya. Following closely are his team mates and classmates who are sweating, shouting with joy and cheering after scoring a goal.
The rains have come down after a long drought and in a short span of time, the landscape is slowly transforming from withering trees to a beautiful lush panorama.
In school, Moses is actively participating during class lessons. He is keen and eager to respond to the teacher’s questions.
Moses’ life has taken a transformative turn for the better, after World Vision - in a feature story aired in a leading Television Station - highlighted the impact of drought on school children.
The story, which was aired a month ago, featured Moses who had been pushed to the limits of human resilience by hunger. Overwhelmed and too weak to vocalise his pain, he shed tears of hunger. The teacher and other children watched helplessly as this happened.
The school was dead silent and almost deserted as children struggled to keep awake in class. Slowly, one by one, they zoned off as hunger bit hard. Moses, overwhelmed by the pangs of hunger, weakened by thirst and weighed down by the uncertainty of a meal, spoke for children in his community through his tears.
This happened as the children were reciting a book passage titled 'A Birthday Celebration.' In the excerpt, the main character of the story was describing the preparation of a delicious food that marked his birthday.
It read as follows: “My name is Mati and yesterday was my birthday. My mother prepared sumptuous meals [for the birthday celebration]. My mother prepared my favourite meals like rice, chicken and Samosa. The food was mouth-watering and I ate to my satisfaction but later fell ill. I was taken to the doctor who said that I was constipated and after treating me, advised me not to overeat."
The irony was that most of the children reciting the passage had gone for long hours, some of them days, without food.
The situation is different now, thanks to the establishment of a feeding programme in Primary -as well as 11 more schools - through World Vision's sponsorship funds in Bamba, Kilifi County, Kenya.
“I am now happy because I have something to eat in school. It was painful to recite a passage about food on an empty stomach. Now, I enjoy reading the passage because I am assured of eating lunch in school,” says Kadzo, a pupil in Moses’ class.
Children can now concentrate in class, unlike before, when most of them would doze off because they were usually too hungry to stay awake. The school attendance has also improved.
"We now have 100% attendance unlike before, when most children would stay at home because of hunger. I have taught in this school for five years and during this period we have experienced just one sufficient rainy season. The water tanks were empty for a long time. But now, World Vision brings us water in a truck daily. Before this intervention, we would go for days without water,” says Gift, a teacher at the school.
Back home, Moses is the forth born in a family of eight children. Without a job and source of sustainable income resulting from four successive failed rain seasons, his father depends on gathering dead wood for sale to sustain his family. When there is no food, his mother - like many other women in the community - gathers wild roots for a meal.
In just one month after his plight was highlighted, Moses’s tears have turned into showers of blessings for his family and children in Kavunzoni Primary School. Witnessing what transpired in those few minutes in class (during the Television Show), broke viewers' hearts as they were taken into the world of over four million people in dire need of food assistance in Kenya. Hunger is dehumanising. It robs a child of joy, comfort and happiness that they should enjoy in their childhood.
As Moses cried, the world was celebrating World Food Day on October,16,2022. There was nothing for him to celebrate. The dry, dusty ground in Ganze could only be wet by his tears, emanating from the well of an innocent broken heart, in his quest for an education that will help him escape the indignity of poverty.
There is every reason to celebrate now as Moses and his family are bound to move into a state-of-the-art home, built for them by a well-wisher. He is living the promise of hope and joy that every heart deserves.
“Moses is so young, yet he has done so much for us. I am so happy because we received so many visitors. They came with food, clothes and books for my family. Our house became small because of the gifts we got. It was a blessing for the whole village. Children are a blessing and you never know the favour they carry. I never dreamt of living in such a beautiful house but my child has moved me from Egypt into Canaan, ” says Moses’ mother.
“I enjoy going to school now because our beautiful house is near the school. My former home was far. I had to wake up at five o'clock each morning to trek to school with my siblings and friends. The journey was not safe because we would often meet elephants from Tsavo National Park that come close to people's homes to look for food during long droughts. When I grow up, I want to operate cameras, fly drones and tell stories of children,” says Moses.
“In school, I play with my friends and at lunch time we eat before going home, unlike before. That day, I cried because I was hungry, I had not eaten dinner and breakfast. The previous day, I had only eaten one meal. Many people brought us food which I shared with everyone,” he adds.
Moses’ family is among the many that have benefitted from World Vision's drought response initiatives, However, many more are still in need of support.
These interventions have been funded by the organisation's sponsorship projects as well as grant projects like the Kenya Integrated Emergency Response Project (KIEREP), which is funded by the USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.