July 21, 2011

Fleeing Somalia as famine declared

By |21 July 2011|

By Laura Sheahen They’ve walked for days or weeks, and their shoes show it. Dusty and worn, the sandals of a little boy dangle in his hand as he wails in the centre of a refugee camp. Nearby, his mother rocks her sobbing baby. The family has made it to the camp, one of several in northeast Kenya that are receiving a flood of refugees from Somalia. “We had livestock like sheep, goats, and cattle-over a dozen,” says a 22-year-old mother named Momina. “They all died of the drought.” “We used to eat corn,” she continues. “But food was running out. So we left.” Walking in a group of about 20 people, it took Momina 20 days to get from her home in Somalia to the Kenyan camp. They slept under the stars, ate whatever they had left, and managed to avoid attacks-by wild animals and by the bandits that plague the area. Over 1,000 [...]

Drought in East Africa: Kenya’s cattle dying

By |12 July 2011|

The rolling mountains in the distance are known locally as Louwa Le Ukinchu, or Cattle Mountains. For generations, people have travelled there to find water and pasture for their animals. But today, the streams that run down Cattle Mountains are dry. Most families in Isiolo, 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, are pastoralists: they rely on cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels to make a living. These animals aren’t simply a source of food and milk – they’re living banks, the main assets that people own. When their animals die, as they’ve been doing at an alarming rate, pastoralists don’t have the means to feed their families. The devastating drought that’s hit large parts of northern Kenya has forced pastoralists near Cattle Mountains to travel further than ever before in search of water and pasture to keep their animals alive. The effects are visible in the expansive dry scrublands: [...]

January 24, 2011

Importance of adapting to climate change in Kenya

By |24 January 2011|

By Samson Malesi Shivaji, National Livelihoods Coordinator, Caritas Kenya Unusual rain, inconsistent water supply, high temperatures overall and extreme heat in some places, windy conditions, reduced farming outputs with greater costs, conflict and people forced from their homes. In Kenya, the definition of climate change to the ordinary person in the village is devoid of scientific and technical parameters. Instead, the definition is the reality of everyday challenges that such an ordinary person has to live with from dawn to dusk. The impact of climate change in Kenya hits hard on the resources of poor homes and they don’t have the capacity to combat its affects. The international debate on climate change does not resonate with the ordinary man or woman in Kenya. They are more concerned with how to cope with the challenges posed by the changes. Food security is key to development. This is particularly important in Kenya, since the agricultural [...]

December 2, 2009

Imagine compassion in a crisis: Ballots not bullets

By |2 December 2009|

2008 began badly for Mary, her three daughters, and six grandchildren. Post-election violence in Kenya escalated into ethnic conflict that saw families driven from their homes. “I don’t even want to remember the picture of that day. They were running in all directions, setting fire to crops and houses,” said Mary. Her family was taken into the home of an ordinary family who stood up to the forces of division. Caritas helped Mary and her hosts Peter and Margaret Wambui with rations and clothing, as well as working in camps providing food, medical help and counselling. Zimbabwe’s decline took on frightening momentum. A bloody election left the country without effective leadership. Caritas reported that nine out of ten people were short of food. A major cholera epidemic pointed to the collapse of healthcare, schools, water and electricity supply. Caritas distributed chlorine tablets to stop the epidemic, repaired water points, and trained people to [...]

September 3, 2009

Kenya: a long road to reconciliation

By |3 September 2009|

The crisis in Kenya in 2008 was triggered by the alleged rigging of the December 2007 preside ntial election — setting various ethnic groups against each other. What began as political violence, quickly became ethnic. By 21st January 2007, “ethnic cleansing” had resulted in displacement of more than 300,000 people of all walks of life from diverse ethnicities into camps and with host families. The crisis had the underlying deep seated issues that have roots in the historical inequalities and injustices between ethnic groups in Kenya. Reconciliation is far from achieved. At the end of the year, still over a hundred thousand people living in camps, transit centres, or hosted by families. While some families are afraid of being driven away again by angry neighbors, other displaced people have different reasons for not returning home. Some are waiting until they receive the full amount of resettlement funds promised by the Kenyan government. Others who were previously [...]

Kenya crisis: past, present and future

By |3 September 2009|

In the course of his day’s work last week Stephen Kituku saw hungry children with swollen stomachs, dead animals on roadsides and met families who were surviving on one meal a day. He's the National Emergency Officer for Caritas Kenya. That was one day, it’s probably safe to say that what he sees over the next few months will be much, much worse. Up to 10 million people in Kenya are estimated to be at risk of acute hunger. This current food crisis comes just three years after 3.5 million Kenyans went hungry after a succession of poor rains limited the country’s food production. “It’s almost as though people forget to think about food security once a crisis is over,” says Mr Kituku. “Kenya relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture so it’s vital we implement long-term projects to ensure that there’s enough water for crops and to teach people about conserving what they harvest.” The [...]

August 16, 2008

Hunger and HIV

By |16 August 2008|

"People know that HIV will kill them within months, but hunger might kill them by the end of the week," said Dr John Mundi Amolo as he makes his tour of the HIV and AIDS patients admitted to Mutomo Hospital in Kenya. "If someone has only 50 bob [35 pence], then they would rather buy food than get drugs for their HIV. They have no choice." Mutomo Hospital is in the Kitui district, which has been hit hard by years of drought. Rivers have dried up, crops destroyed, and the people worn down by hunger. Among the most affected have been those with HIV and AIDS. Although life-saving drugs are cheap and available, the small food and medical costs necessary to be able to take them are often too much. "The anti-AIDS drugs don't work well without good nutrition," said the doctor. "People have not been eating day after day. Taking [...]