In Mandera, north-east Kenya, food shortages caused by persistent drought have led to rates of malnutrition soaring to over 40 per cent. Many families are eating just one meal a day and people are becoming increasingly reliant on emergency aid for their survival.
Islamic Relief has established supplementary feeding centres in Mandera to provide nutritional support and medical care to malnourished children. One of the children being treated at our centre in Rhamu is 18 month old Abdihakim Gure. His mother, 28-year-old Sultana Osman, brought her youngest son to the centre one month ago, where he has been receiving highly nutritious food as well as being treated for other health problems caused by malnutrition such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections.
Sultana explained how the widespread drought in Kenya has affected her family, “We used to have 30 goats, 25 sheep and seven cows but they have all died in the drought. Our animals were our living but now we have no meat and no milk. We are surviving on handouts.”
“My son is not well and needs specialist treatment. He is weak and emaciated, and has breathing problems,” said Sultana. “His health has declined since the drought started. Thankfully he is now gradually improving but I do not know what would have happened if this centre was not here.”
No animals left
Sultana and her husband Hassan have six children. They used to live further to the south where they spent their days caring for their animals, which were their living and their source of food. But three months ago they were forced to move to Mandera in search of work and food, leaving behind their eldest son to care for his grandmother’s few remaining goats.
“The drought is very severe in our area and the shortage of pasture affected the health of our animals. All my goats, sheep and most of my cows died because the land was dry and bare, and there was nothing for them to eat,” Sultana said.
“One day my husband was with the animals trying to find some water for them to drink,” she continued. “They had to walk very far and the animals were already very weak. One by one they began to collapse, and finally by the third day they were all dead.”
Nothing to eat
“Now that our animals have died we don’t have a regular source of income,” said Sultana. “Every day my husband and I go out looking for casual work. Sometimes he gets a labouring job and sometimes I find work washing clothes and doing domestic chores for my neighbours.”
“When we are lucky we are able to eat one meal a day,” said Sultana. “But on a bad day when there is no work, we have nothing to eat. And then we only survive by the grace of Allah.
“When we had animals we had meat and milk, but not anymore. There is very little food here and what is available is very expensive, which means we often have to rely on handouts. My family’s life was so much better when we had animals, I could feed my children and we had an income, but now I don’t have anything.
“We are not the only people who are suffering in this way,” said Sultana. “There are so many other families who have lost all their animals because of this drought, and they all urgently need help, especially food.”
“One month ago my youngest son was admitted to Islamic Relief’s centre for malnourished children. He was examined again today and they told me that his weight is improving which is good news. But my other children are also suffering because we do not have enough food.”
“I don’t want to be poor and see my children suffering,” explained Sultana. “I wish I could work again and feed my family, but we need help. At the moment I cannot plan for the future, but can only hope and pray for the best.”