33-year-old Mariam Billow Jimcale knows better than most the tragic effects of the drought in Kenya. Mariam lives in Kalicha in the Rhamu Division of Mandera, in a one-room hut made from sticks and palm leaves with her husband and their six children. Her husband works as a casual labourer while Mariam earns a little money selling firewood. She has to walk for many kilometres to find the wood but often returns home empty handed.
Mariam once had her own livestock but they were lost to the cycles of drought in Mandera. “I used to have a herd of goats that gave me a ready supply of milk and meat,” said Mariam. “But they are now all dead and there is no meat or milk, so my children are hungry.”
Food is unaffordable
The drought has caused crops to wither and die and many basic food items such as maize are no longer available in the markets. Worse than that, the cost of food has risen dramatically and is now unaffordable for most people.
“Milk used to cost 30 shillings but now it is 100,” said Mariam. “Meat was 70 shillings for half a kilo but the cost of this has doubled. If this situation continues for much longer we may have to migrate to an area that has water and pasture. Life is difficult but we are praying to Allah to make things better.”
As the drought deepens and the price of food continues to rise, many local people have taken drastic measures to deal with the shortages of food, from reducing the number of meals they eat, to migrating across the border into Somalia in search of water.
Tragically the rates of malnutrition, especially amongst young children, are still rising and in some areas are now at 35 per cent - well over the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.
Mariam’s four-year-old twins Nima and Noor are malnourished and are now receiving supplementary food and healthcare as part of Islamic Relief’s nutrition programme in the region.
Islamic Relief is currently providing highly nutritious supplementary food to many malnourished children and pregnant women. Our health teams visit local villages to assess which children are at risk and in need of medical care. These children are referred to Islamic Relief’s supplementary feeding centres for treatment including highly nutritious food and urgent healthcare for other medical problems such as diarrhoea and respiratory problems.
“Were it not for Islamic Relief coming to my village I would not have realised that my children were malnourished,” said Mariam. “Luckily they were admitted to the health centre where they are receiving food and medical care, and they are now recovering well.”
Unfortunately the prognosis for Mandera over the coming months is not good. The long rains in April and May were very poor, and it is likely that the forthcoming harvest will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the population with the tragic consequence that food shortages will increase and rates of malnutrition will rise.
Islamic Relief is working with communities across East Africa who are affected by the food crisis. To help us continue this life saving work please donate today.