“Horn of Africa drought: UK charities issue appeals“. “Famine Looms As Horn of Africa Drought Persists“. “Africa drought pushes Kenya and Somalia into pre-famine conditions“. “10m face hunger in East Africa’s ‘worst drought’“. These are just a few of the headlines that have appeared online in recent days. Food security is a major issue in Kenya at the moment and the problem looks set to get worse. Does this affect projects supported by Vision Africa?
The interactive map on the Guardian’s website shows that the majority of Kenya had less than 50% of normal rainfall from June 2010 to May 2011. Crops have yielded poor harvests and in some cases nothing has grown at all. This has resulted in food prices rising dramatically throughout the country. I’m sure that many of the reports in the international media are showing northern/north eastern Kenya and arid areas where there is food scarcity but this crisis is impacting the whole country – even urban areas. Florence, headteacher at our Nairobi Seed of Hope Centre, told me that the price of a 2kg bag of maize flour has gone from 55ksh (40p/$0.60 ) in 2007 to 160ksh (£1.14/$1.70) and higher in the shops today. This is one of the staple foods in Kenya, used to make ugali and porridge. Rising prices are making it harder for families to afford the most basic food items. This makes it all the more important for our feeding programs to continue to ensure that children are eating at least one decent meal a day. However, our projects are struggling to stretch their budgets to buy the vital supplies they require.
Moving out to the rural areas, projects are also suffering there. Mbeere Children’s Home in Riandu has a fourteen acre shamba (land for agriculture) and at one point three years ago had such great yields they were able to feed their own children and supply the local secondary school with vegetables to raise income for school fees and other costs. Sadly, the rains have failed the home in recent times and their crops have been lost. I asked Henry, the administrator of the home, what was happening in his area. He told us “Donations of food are no longer there. Cattle are dying and it’s the same case with children and grownups. We had been growing vegetables on our farm and other kinds of crops but now there is nothing to sustain the institution from the shamba.”
The last time drought hit Kenya, I remember sitting down with the headteacher of a primary school in Kambiti which neighbours our Percy Davies School for children with special needs. He told me, sadly, that attendance levels at his school were falling day by day as children were sent out to find food instead of going to school. His school didn’t offer a feeding program so there was no incentive for parents to send their children to school as they would go hungry all day and possibly not have anything to eat at night other than boiled unripe mangoes. This really highlighted the importance of feeding programs…as well as ensuring that children are fed, in times of crisis it can mean that their education continues.
Thanks to local government offices, some of our projects’ feeding programs have been supplemented by relief food – generally maize and beans – provided by the government to help those who need assistance. After the post election violence of 2008, these donations stopped as all relief food was diverted to the camps for IDPs (Internally Displaced People). We would anticipate that if the current drought continues, these donations will once again dry up as relief food is sent to the more remote areas and to assist those in refugee camps in north eastern Kenya.
Vision Africa needs YOUR help to ensure that the children at the projects we support continue to be fed and stay in school in these times of crisis. You can give to our work online, by bank transfer or via MPESA (for those in Kenya). Please click on the links for details.
Supporters in the UK can also use our new Text to Donate service. Simpy text FOOD22 followed by the amount you wish to donate to 70070. (For example to donate £10 send FOOD22 £10) This service, provided by JustGiving, is sponsored by Vodafone. All text messages are free on all networks and Vision Africa incurs no charges, so 100% of your donation will be passed on to us.
With Vision Africa’s administration costs in the UK currently at around just 2% you can be assured that however you choose to make your donation, it really will make a difference to the projects we work with in Kenya.
Let’s keep our children smiling!!!