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Schools closing due to drought in Kenya

This morning we visited Natukobenyo Boarding Primary School, one of the two girls’ boarding primary schools in the district. The school has an enrolment of 375 girls but was forced to close today because they ran out of food.

As we arrived at the school, the pupils were receiving their end-of-term reports ready to go home. From the looks on their faces, you could tell the girls, who come from all over the district, were not eager to leave because they knew the food shortage was worse at home.

When we visited the school kitchen and food store, they were empty, the last meal having been prepared and consumed earlier today. “There is nothing left here for the pupils and we cannot keep them around anymore,” said the acting head teacher Mercy Lobuin. She told us they had done their best to stretch the little food they had but now it was all over.

Mercy showed us that they have kept aside just a small amount of food for Class Eight pupils, who are preparing to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in October. These students will return to school earlier in order to prepare for the examinations. She said the little food they have might not be enough to cater for them but the school board of governors will deal with the problem at that time.

From the school, we proceeded to Lochwarengan Village, where we visited Lopeyok, a 32-year-old mother of seven children aged between 6 months and 17 years. Her husband is a herder, while Lopeyok is a charcoal burner. She also sells firewood to supplement her income. She told us that the current drought has killed all her animals and she now has to depend on charcoal selling for her livelihood.

She told us providing food for the family was a daily struggle, adding that they normally survive on one meal a day. On a bad day, she said, her family is forced to sleep hungry.

She told us the family did not have any food to eat tonight: “I know it will be very painful in the evening for them to sleep without an evening meal. But I’m happy tomorrow they will be able to get something when they go to the ECCD centre, where they will be able to be fed.” The ECCD centre is supported by ChildFund and is one of 13 in the community still providing supplementary feeding for children under five. All the other centres in the area have run out of food and closed, leaving thousands of children in danger of starvation.

We also visited Lokitaung District Hospital, where six severely malnourished children have been admitted for stabilisation. The children are also suffering from dehydration and pneumonia. The clinical officer in charge told us two children died last month because they were not referred to the hospital in time. From our observation, malnutrition levels are increasing with more children falling into the categories of moderate and severe malnutrition.

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