KCDF and partners distribute food to 800 starving families

For more than three years now, the residents of Kajiado county in Kenya have grappled with challenges of drought, water scarcity and lack of feed for their livestock. Consequently, a number of vulnerable families have been facing starvation, with children at the risk of dropping out of school and adults staring at a long-term economic crisis. In response to this need, Kenya Community Development Foundation(KCDF) partnered with Asian Foundation and Chandaria Foundation to distribute packages of food in Kajiado East and  West  to 800 families affected by the drought.

Emilly Omudho (R) Team Leader, Livelihoods, Environment and Natural Resources Management at KCDF presents a food package to a family in Kajiado.

 “We work with our partners around responding to food  emergency as well as implementing interventions that sustainably improve lives of people. In terms of food emergency, we work around food donations to just relieve families that are affected by drought and also we work around supporting intervention that would bring water so that use of water can be helpful in terms of doing farming as well as livestock keeping. We have different partners  working in different counties including Murang’a, Siaya, Kakamega, Busia and Kitui. This means that we are not only working in Kajiado,” says Emilly  Omudho, Team Leader – Livelihoods, Environment, and Natural Resources Management at KCDF.

For this food donation drive, KCDF partnered with Asian Foundation and Chandaria Foundation as the main partners.  To assist with the coordination of the food drive, KCDF’s community partners Beacon of Hope and Emali Dedicated Children Agency offered assistance in Kajiado West and East respectively.

“For the last three years we have faced drought and most of us have been disadvantaged. Before this calamity, life was a bit easy as most of the people here are livestock keepers so they would milk their cows and sell milk and some of their livestock. The calamity has turned our productive county to nothing despite some support from the sub -county government. People have tried to move about with their livestock looking for pasture however,   their livestock   die and they come back with nothing hence, the people stopped moving around  as the neighbouring towns are also dry,” says Robert Nzoia, Sub- Chief Nkama area.

Robert Nzoia, Sub- Chief Nkama area

Despite food insecurity being a nationwide calamity, KCDF together with her partners settled for Kajiado due to the ongoing calamity in the area. Since their donation could not cover all the families in that county, they had a criteria of  choosing the group of people who were to receive the donations. The organization conducted a research the identified  the aged and families  with children as the most vulnerable group in the area.  Beacon of Hope and Emali Dedicated Children’s Agency helped in getting the families, inviting them for the donation and finding a suitable location where they would gather together for distribution of food packages.

Carcass of a cow that died due to drought.

People who were invited had different stories on how life has been since the start of the drought and some challenges they encountered. Pilato Sarampa 40, is a resident of Paranae, a wife and a mother of five children. Before the drought she used to have 5 cows but 4 of them died out of starvation. She then had to sell the one that was left to cater for school fees for her children cautioning them against dropping out. She used to milk her cow and sell the milk while the husband used to be a bodaboda rider but this life changed when they lost their cows. In addition, the husbands motorbike  got into an accident and he could not afford to repair it thus, he has just been at home. She has been doing odd jobs such as doing laundry at a fee and fetching firewood for hotels to ensure she puts something on the table at least once a day.

According to Dr. Manu Chandaria, Trustee at Chandaria Foundation, the food donation drive is in line with the organisation’s mandate hence the response to drought Kajiado county at this time. “I am very delighted that our Foundation has been of help to the people who were really in need of it. We have done similar donations in the Northern part of the country and the impact has been felt greatly. I will encourage those who would love to get involved on the same to do so, to create more efforts in helping the needy,” says Dr. Chandaria.

“Since the start of the drought the life has changed.  It has not been easy, the source of food is not promised on a daily basis.  We have been disadvantaged so much, most of us have lost all the livestock. With the livestock, I could not only feed my children but also pay for their school fees. As at now, to sustain ourselves I do casual work that earns me a hundred shillings a day,” says Felista Odupoi, a beneficiary from Oltepesi Primary School donation point.

On the other hand, Richard Kankai  from Game shared his pain as he lost 10 cows and 30 goats due to drought living him with no livestock. Most of them died although, he sold a few so as to buy feeds for the rest while hoping that it would rain sooner but it didn’t. He was so grateful for being among those who received the food packages. The distribution was timely as his children were on a midterm break and this gave him an assurance that they wouldn’t lack a meal  until they resumed school.

Regardless of the challenges the people of Kajiado have been facing, they still share the little they have amongst  themselves. Sleeping hungry is now becoming the norm.  Anna Elijah Para says during such days it has not been easy explaining to their children that they will have to sleep without food as it gives them so much pain.

“We have been going to Mount Yaong’an to pray every Wednesday to Friday and I feel God has answered our prayers. My household has slept with no food for two days and I am so thankful that with the food packages, we will have food enough for a number of good days. Water shortage has been a big problem and we have been forced to walk for many kilometres to find the resource. This limits me from using the water for irrigation and so I ensure the water is only used for cooking and drinking. My husband trades in livestock. I do beadwork, I bead ‘munai and embene’ earings and the neck bag  for sale and that is how I keep my children in school. At times I apply for bursary for them or even talk to the teachers to keep them in school as I look for the money,’’ says Anna, a resident of Paranae.

Emali Dedicated Children’s Agency organized a medical camp  at the donation points. The residents got a chance to be checked even as they received their food packages. The food package had 4kgs of maize, 6kgs of maize flour, 4kgs of beans, 4kgs of rice, 2kgs of porridge flour, cooking fat and salt.

“People have terribly suffered during this drought season keeping in mind that most of us are pastoralists. In most cases, I get reports that most children have been missing school because they can’t attend classes with an empty stomach as their concentration span will be lowered. Some are forced to stay at home because the parents lacked money to pay for fees  Women have been going for long distances to get water and accessing food for their livestock has been a problem leading to loss of livestock. Through my office, the people have been getting some help from the government though it has not been enough and I would request that more help be rendered more so to the pastoralist as livestock keeping is the backbone of their livelihood here. It is my wish we get food for children in schools as it will help in keeping them in  school. It is not easy for children to miss food both at school and at home. The need for food is recurrent thus, you are welcome back again and again,” says Samuel Makana, senior chief Keekonyokie West.

“I have mixed feelings, I am very happy because I know people are not going to be hungry tonight and maybe for the next three weeks but it is also a sad situation here. However, I am very glad to our donors who came along and supported the project because it has been worth it. Being here and seeing their pain is different from the one I could have imagined while in Nairobi. I am very excited for bringing  joy in their eyes, it means they are happy. I see humility in their eyes,” says Meera Pandit, the CEO of Asian Foundation.

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