Lodwar (Agenzia Fides) - While anti-government riots against the high cost of living continue throughout the country (see Fides, 28/3/2023), the population of northern Kenya, in addition to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, is going through a serious humanitarian crisis. Five seasons without a drop of rain, a ruthless nature due to the scorching sun and a drought that has lasted for more than three years, make the living conditions of the inhabitants of Turkana, one of the 47 counties of Kenya located in the ex Rift Valley Province, inhuman and desperate. This is what Father Robbin Kamemba, Provincial Superior of the Society for African Missions (SMA) in Kenya, told Agenzia Fides.
"Life here is hard, people walk more than 45 km in search of water, compared to the usual 2-3 km. Furthermore, due to the crops that have been lost, they are no longer able to obtain food for themselves and they are forced to rely on external aid", adds Fr. Kamemba. According to some scientists, some areas are at risk of no longer being suitable for grazing in the future.
Specifically, the SMA serves two mission areas in this part of Kenya, Lorugum and Namoruputh, diocese of Lodwar, which together cover an area of about 80 km2. As the missionary explained, these are configurations of rural communities that survive in the typical desert environment of northern Kenya and with the typical lifestyle of nomadic herders. "The communities in this area depend mainly on subsistence agriculture and grazing. The benefits and income from these two activities depend on the amount of rain. With the current situation of drought, which has reached a critical level, the negative impact on the life of the population makes itself felt painfully: livestock is exterminated, there is no income, food for one person is shared among three or four, diseases run rampant along with general despair among families, which break up at as each member disperses in search of food".
The serious repercussions also affect children who go to school. "Unfortunately - says Father Kamemba - there have been many deaths due mainly to hunger, premature births and other diseases related to malnutrition. Among them are anemia, stunting, kwashiorkor and marasmus which are a type of malnutrition commonly caused by insufficient protein intake and lack of energy".
In response to this emergency, the national government and local authorities, with the support of development partners, the private sector, non-state actors and goodwill of Kenyans, have intensified their interventions to protect people affected by this serious emergency. The SMA Fathers of the diocese of Lodwar, with the financial help of SMA Solidale Onlus in Italy and the Bresillac Foundation in the Netherlands, are also on the front line, and not only in their mission area, to respond to the appeal for help of the communities. "We distribute food, water and medicine. To date, more than 80 families have been reached, and the relief intervention will continue as long as the available funds allow it - explained Fr. Kamemba. This intervention of the SMA, and of the Church in general, is a concrete testimony of our closeness to the most abandoned, to the people of God in Lorugum and Namoruputh. Surely they experience God's Divine Providence even in the midst of so much suffering and emptiness".
Recently, Rebecca Miano, Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development, stated that the drought situation remains critical in 22 out of 23 counties. She stated that very high rates of children at risk of malnutrition have been observed in five counties, attributed to the continued decline in milk production and consumption, as well as low dietary diversity, poor infant feeding practices and reduced food intake at home. Miano stated that more than 4 million Kenyans are in desperate need of food aid and that 960,000 children are severely malnourished.
Meanwhile, Home and National Security Minister Kithure Kindiki announced that violent protests would no longer be allowed anywhere in Kenya. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 30/3/2023)