Six thousand children who have been affected by the drought in east Africa are receiving a daily meal from Mary’s Meals.
The charity, which provides school meals in some of the world’s poorest communities, has been working in the region for several years, and already feeds thousands of children in South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.
Now its work in the Diocese of Lodwar, in drought-hit northern Kenya, is reaching more of those in need.
Asssistance is being targeted at nursery-aged children, the age-group at the most at risk from hunger-related diseases, ensuring that they receive crucial nutrition during the six week summer holiday, when other sources of food are not available.
The new programme brings the total number of children that Mary’s Meals is feeding in Kenya to more than 24,000. The six thousand reached by the new programme are in addition to 3,100 already supported in Lodwar and 15,000 elsewhere in Kenya.
Magnus MacFarlane Barrow, Mary’s Meals chief executive, said: “The situation in Turkana has become increasingly desperate, with failed rains leading to dire food and water shortages. What was already a crisis has become an emergency, so when our partners asked for help to feed more hungry children, we felt compelled to give it.”
The new programme will provide a daily meal of maize and beans for 6,000 children aged from three to six over the next six weeks, with a review at the end of that period. In addition to the children attending the nurseries, it is expected that other older and younger children will be drawn to the centres by the prospect of food.
The children who will benefit come from pastoralist families who normally depend on goats and cattle for their livelihoods. As more animals die, many are subsisting on wild fruits such as doum palm seeds, and, where they have survived, the blood and milk of their live animals.
Tim Flynn, administrator for the Diocese of Lodwar, which delivers Mary’s Meals in the region, reports that the situation is worsening “Hunger is widespread and animals have started to die,” he said. “We know that things are going to get worse because there is no expectation of any rain, if it comes at all, before October.”
More than a third of children under-five in Turkana are severely underweight, an indication of the urgency of a situation that is causing families to take increasing risks in search of food. While some camp by the road-side in the hope of donations from passers-by, others are venturing into hostile territory to trade beads for food. Last month a group of travellers that included women and children were massacred by militia as they returned from a trip to find food in Ethiopia.
Against this background, the nutritious school meal of beans and maize mash, provided by Mary’s Meals, is a source of reassurance and hope.
“The drought has meant that more children come to school in order to secure at least a meal,” says Roseline Aite Onakuta, development co-ordinator for the Diocese of Lodwar. “During incidences of raids, parents and their children move to safer areas in fear of their lives. This increases the number of children enrolled in the nurseries around the secure places.”
“We are considering how we can respond to further urgent requests for more help from our friends and partners in Northern Kenya,” says Magnus.
“Chronic hunger is one of the main reasons that children miss out on education. Wherever possible, the meals that Mary’s Meals provides are delivered in schools, because we know that an education provides children with the tools they need to escape poverty. Mary’s Meals’ vision is that every child in the world should receive a daily meal in their place of education. Alongside this emergency response, our commitment to that vision continues.”
- It costs Mary’s Meals a global average of £9.40 to feed a child for a year. Click here to make a donation.