East Africa Food Crisis – helping Halima and her children survive
By Mireille Flores, Humanitarian Programmes Manager
I’ve travelled to Kenya to see how we’re able to help with the money donated to our East Africa Food Crisis Appeal. I’m travelling with our local partners to deliver vital food and water to people in need and find out how else we might be able to help.
World Jewish Relief has teamed up with a terrific NGO in North East Kenya called RACIDA (Rural Agency for Community Development and Assistance). Our efforts are focused on helping people in Mandera county, an area bordering Ethiopia and Somalia. It’s one of the regions hardest hit by the current drought conditions and access to food and water has been severely affected. This is causing huge problems for both humans and their livestock.
Dried out earth pan.
We travelled to several villages where donations to our East Africa Food Crisis Appeal are helping to provide water. The money raised is paying for trucks to transport water 6-8 hours to reach villages in desperate need. One of the villages we visited is Malkaruqa where I met Halima Mohamed Salat, a young mother of 6 children who lives in a traditional hut (Hori) together with her husband.
Water truck delivery
There are 361 households in Malkaruqa, each with between 6 and 8 family members. The community has a primary school and 4 water tanks, although only one is functioning. There is also an earth pan which collects and preserves rainwater for people to drink and give to their livestock. In regular weather conditions these tanks and earth pan supply the community with enough water for 3 to 4 months, which gets them through the dry season until the rains come again to fill them up. However, the rain failed and the tanks and earth pan are completely empty. The community is left with no water resource and no access to food and as their crops fail and their animals die, they are literally watching their livelihoods disappear.
With the help of World Jewish Relief and RACIDA, this community has been able to receive water to fill one of the tanks. Water trucks make the long journey to the village every two days and enables people like Halima to get water for their own use, for cooking, drinking, washing and to give to the few animals they have managed to save.
I spoke to Halima in the searing heat in front of her hut, as the kids hung onto her skirts. A beautifully graceful and softly spoken woman, she told me how she had been travelling to Hulow, a town 13km away from Malkaruqa, in order to collect just 20 litres of water. She had to hire a donkey cart to make the journey, which cost her 200 Kenyan shillings (£1.60) and to pay for this she had to start selling her goats. Her livestock are incredibly thin and frail because of the lack of water and food for pasture and the price she’s able to get is extremely low. But she was still forced to sell them in order to be able to afford water for her family.
And then she started to tell me how the project, funded by World Jewish Relief, is now bringing water to the village. The water point is 500 metres from her home and she does not have to pay for it. She can also get some water for her animals, six of which have already died of starvation and dehydration.
Even so, Halima and her children are still only having one meal a day, usually in the evening, mainly consisting of rice or maize. The rest of the day they have black tea. Her goats aren’t producing milk, so she can’t give this to her children, and they can’t get any meat from their livestock.
With great courage Halima said: “We are at risk but we have no other option. We can only wait for the rain and hope that there will be enough pasture for the animals, their condition will improve and there will be plenty of milk for me and my children. In the meantime, I only wish you keep saving our lives”.