Kenyan hunger worsens over drought


  • Photo 1 of 13

    Children in a community outside of Lodwar, Kenya, more than 300 miles northwest of Nairobi. Many of these children survive on one meal a day --- if that.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 2 of 13

    A child begs for water on the side of a road that runs between Lodwar, in Northwestern Kenya and the Sudanese border.

    - JR Woodward

  • Photo 3 of 13

    A structure made partly of products left over after some American aid was distributed. This community is on the outskirts of Lodwar, Kenya. Lodwar is the main city in the Turkana district. It is more than 300 miles northwest of Nairobi. Little grows in this community so most food has to be shipped into the town. And many of its residents depend on international aid.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 4 of 13

    Margaret Akai lives in the community outside of Lodwar. She has nine children. They sleep in the huts behind her. One of her children shows visible signs of malnutrition.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 5 of 13

    John Githongo was a former anti-corruption chief in Kenya.

    - Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

  • Photo 6 of 13

    A woman in the Turkana region of Kenya walks to gather water. People in the drought-stricken northwestern part of Kenya often have to journey for miles to the nearest water source. They, then carry, large jerry cans back on their heads.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 7 of 13

    Stella Nabibia is the head of the catering department at Turkana Women Conference Center. She's had to skip lunch as the price of food has skyrocketed because of drought.

    - Jennifer Collins

  • Photo 8 of 13

    A community of weavers try to make a living in the midst of what may be the worst drought in 10 years.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 9 of 13

    In the Turkana culture, women are responsible for the household. That means they have the main responsibility of providing for their children --- especially if the men are unable to work or have their herds die off, as has been common in this drought.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 10 of 13

    A Turkana woman weaves while her child rests on her lap. The World Food program has requested emergency aid from donor countries to help the nearly 4 million people who urgently need food in Kenya.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 11 of 13

    The Turkana tribe is one of only a few truly nomatic groups of people in Kenya. Men make their living herding goats and camels and women weave baskets. This woman in traditional Turkana attire makes about 30 cents a day with her weaving.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 12 of 13

    This man is from a village in the countryside in Northwestern Kenya. His family is so poor, residents said he had not eaten in four days.

    - Aaron Nee

  • Photo 13 of 13

    Peter Etesiro is the village elder in this community of about 300 on the outskirts of Lodwar (more than 300 miles northwest of Nairobi). He says this drought has been one of the most difficult experiences of his life.

    - Aaron Nee

Peter Etesiro is the village elder in this community of about 300 on the outskirts of Lodwar (more than 300 miles northwest of Nairobi). He says this drought has been one of the most difficult experiences of his life.

Stella Nabibia is the head of the catering department at Turkana Women Conference Center. She's had to skip lunch as the price of food has skyrocketed because of drought.

Margaret Akai lives in the community outside of Lodwar. She has nine children. They sleep in the huts behind her. One of her children shows visible signs of malnutrition.

John Githongo was a former anti-corruption chief in Kenya.


Jennifer Collins responds to readers' questions after story below.


TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: In Kenya today the director of the government's Anti-Corruption Commission has resigned. Maybe because after 5 years in office, he hadn't successfully prosecuted a single case. Corruption was one reason the U.S. threatened to stop some Kenyan politicians from coming here this week, and also to take a closer look at some planned aid programs.

All of this attention to corruption comes as Kenya is suffering through its worst drought in a decade. A drought that has basically broken the agricultural economy there. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports now from Northwest Kenya.


JENNIFER COLLINS: In the searing afternoon heat, a couple dozen women sit in the shade of a tree and weave baskets.

They make about 30 cents a day. That's if they can sell those baskets. Even in this dusty rural community about 300 miles from Nairobi, 30 cents isn't much. Margaret Akai worries about feeding herself, her husband and nine children.

MARGARET AKAI: The kids are really starving and if there is no intervention, they will not survive. They're becoming weak and susceptible to illness.

The drought has devastated agriculture and killed off livestock, so men like Akai's husband can't find work as herders. She says everyone depends on her now.

AKAI: When I see my kids going hungry, I try to weave very fast. So I can then go to the river and collect firewood to sell in town.

But even this extra money doesn't put enough food on the table. Residents here say hunger contributed to the deaths of some of their neighbors. The World Food Program warns more Kenyans may die if food isn't soon shipped to the nearly 4 million people who urgently need it. Another $230 million is needed for emergency rations. But because of the global financial crisis, donor countries are slow to give. And some Kenyans are outraged to see their country in this dire situation.

JOHN Githongo: For even one Kenyan to die is not acceptable.

John Githongo is an anti-corruption official in the Kenyan government. Now, he runs a couple of nonprofits. He says Kenya used to be known as a breadbasket. It should have the resources to handle this crisis.

Githongo: The Kenyan government collects over $4 billion in tax every year. The civil service and provincial administration in this country has the capacity to distribute food around the country. So Kenya is well placed to deal with these kinds of problems.

Githongo says the government is wracked by graft and infighting. There are also reports that corrupt officials sold off some of the country's grain reserves at the beginning of the drought. Now there's not enough left to feed the hungry. Restaurant manager Stella Nabibia says corruption is exacerbating the affects of this drought.

Stella Nabibia: It makes the prices to go high.

Nabibia runs a restaurant that's popular with tourists and aid workers -- even here there are problems.

Nabibia: You can see there are stickers.

Stickers, because food has to be shipped in from more fertile regions -- things like tomato and kale are five times as expensive as they used to be. So new prices cover last year's menu. Nabibia says she's also had to cut back on the food she cooks for her 8-year-old son. They have tea for breakfast everyday and skip lunch. But on her walk to work she sees people who are far worse off.

Nabibia: You just seem them. Sometimes they just come asking for water, just for water to keep them going. It's not new here if somebody tells you I've gone for four days without food. It's real. Yeah, it's real.

Faced with this reality, Margaret Akai and her neighbors weave their baskets and pray that help will come soon --- from inside or outside Kenya. But village elder Peter Etesiro is pessimistic.

Peter Etesiro: I'm used to hard times. But this time is the worst because I see only darkness. There's just no solution.

In the Turkana district, I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

Peter Etesiro is the village elder in this community of about 300 on the outskirts of Lodwar (more than 300 miles northwest of Nairobi). He says this drought has been one of the most difficult experiences of his life.

Stella Nabibia is the head of the catering department at Turkana Women Conference Center. She's had to skip lunch as the price of food has skyrocketed because of drought.

Margaret Akai lives in the community outside of Lodwar. She has nine children. They sleep in the huts behind her. One of her children shows visible signs of malnutrition.

John Githongo was a former anti-corruption chief in Kenya.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...