ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

Seeing drought through the eyes of children

She is among the 2.7 million of people in Kenya who are being pushed to the edge by a deadly drought.

Irene Chepkasan, 30, sees this first hand through the eyes of her six children and the many others that she cooks for at Kongelai Primary school in Kenya’s West Pokot County.

The headmaster at the school told ActionAid he has of late been receiving new students, all of them joining the school because of the free lunch that is provided by the government. Few families here have food in their stores. Livestock including the tough camels are dying.

 

“We have had an influx of new students when we started providing free lunch in late January. We even need more desks as opposed to normal times when many students would skip school to look after cattle, “said the headmaster, Mr. Nelson Komole.

The land is scorched – the sun blazing. Water sources have dried up. The price of water found in a few wells has shot up from shillings 50 per 20 litres to shillings 200. The water is sold by businessmen who are capitalizing on the shortage to make profits.

Irene’s husband walked out on his family, leaving her to be the sole bread winner. Life has always been tough but the support from her community and projects done by ActionAid had made her life bearable.

The current drought has devastated her by taking away her prized camel – a gift she received from ActionAid a few years ago. The camel has been for a few years her shield during dry seasons. Now there is no more milk for the children.

When her husband left and her children dropped out of school due to lack of school fees, Kongelai Women Network, a group supported by ActionAid came to her rescue. They even found her a job as a temporary cook at the school. But her earnings is not enough to take care of her family needs.

“The death of my camel has left us without any hope. I don’t own any land here. I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Irene’s children and many others are now depended on the school lunch as their only meal of the day.

As ActionAid responds to the effects of the devastating drought with food aid and water, it is also training women like Irene to understand how the disaster response process works and how they can keep it the government and other institutions accountable to them – ensuring that services are delivered to the right people in the community and in the stated amounts.