AFRICA/KENYA - Drought wipes out livestock. Millions of children and elderly under nightmare of hunger

Saturday, 28 January 2023


Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "Many elderly people, the most vulnerable segment of the population, are dying, while children's malnutrition is getting worse by the day, because they no longer even have milk that used to be provided by goats". This was stated by Sister Ligia Girón, a missionary of the Congregation of Hermanas Misioneras Sociales de la Iglesia, which coordinates 12 nursery schools in the northern region of Kenya inhabited by the Turkana, a tribe of nomadic shepherds.
Due to a two-year drought, the Turkana have lost almost all of their livestock, their primary source of livelihood. Some families seem to accept with less sorrow "that a child dies rather than a goat, which gives them food", adds Sister Ligia. In children under 5, the rate of malnutrition has increased by 40 percent.
"The current closure of schools by the Kenyan government, from November 25, 2022 to January 23, 2023, has contributed to aggravating the situation," explains the nun. Many children depend on the food they receive in educational centers to survive. "Students from public primary school come to our nursery schools to eat, because we do not close. We have stopped classes, but not food distribution. Currently an untold number of children between the ages of 2 and 7 come to us", says the nun.
The situation is no different for the part of the population that used to be engaged in fishing. There is not enough to survive, the water level of Lake Turkana has dropped by 1.5 meters, and the wells have dried up. "All the inhabitants come to the only wells that still have water to supply their homes, and this generates conflicts among them".

Ligia Girón, a missionary of Ecuadorian origin, belongs to the congregation of the Social Missionary Sisters of the Church (HMSI). She has lived in the region for three years and has been in Kenya for 11. She says that many Turkana have migrated to the fertile areas of southern Ethiopia and South Sudan. "This causes conflicts between the tribes because each defends the survival of their animals. In addition, many steal goats and camels and return to Turkana to sell them".
The Turkana practice ancestral customs. The harshness of the territory in which they reside, which is semi-desert, makes it prohibitive for them to access food, education, health care or stable employment.
The Turkana region has an area of 68,680 km2, and its population reaches one million inhabitants. Currently, life expectancy for women is 42 years. Polygamy is still practiced among them. At the onset of puberty, girls are promised to adult males and sold as labor.
The HMSI Congregation, founded in 1965 in Ecuador by Spanish missionary Julián Lorente, works to promote the proclamation of the Gospel, human development and social support for the poorest.
In Kenya, millions of people are suffering from the effects of the worst drought the country has experienced in 40 years, due to which more than 2.5 million livestock have been lost.
Five consecutive seasons without rain have resulted in a dramatic food crisis for people throughout the Horn of Africa. According to data provided by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), more than 20 million children are at risk of hunger, thirst and serious diseases due to the drought in Somalia, Kenya and southern Ethiopia, the most severe recorded in more than two generations.(AP) (Agenzia Fides, 28/1/2023)