In Gambella village, the first person I meet is Koye Sersera. Koye is 71 years old and lives with her husband and five grandchildren. The family share a tiny one-roomed hut, made from clay, pieces of timber and a corrugated iron roof. Koye and her husband built it themselves. Inside there is only room for one mattress, a small table and bench.
Koye and her family used to be able to provide enough food for themselves by growing crops in their small Shamba (food garden). They used the milk from their goats for the children, and if they ever needed to pay for school uniforms they could sell one of the animals. But with no rain this year their food garden has dried up. There is no way of irrigating it during the dry season, so all of the crops have died. To make matters worse, their livestock have been lost to the drought too.
This is the same story for thousands of family’s across all of northern Kenya. But whilst many are turning to other forms of income, Koye’s family has no other options. She explains:
There is no one in our family that can work. I am old, my husband is old. My family can’t do charcoal burning. We have no other relatives we can rely on. Soon I may have to stop sending the children to school because we have no money.
Koye and her family are more at risk from this drought because their family now has no way to generate income. But they are not the only ones. Ask anyone who the drought is affecting the most, and you will get the same answer: the elderly and people living with HIV and AIDS, because they are too weak to work; pregnant women and single mothers, that have to meet the needs of their large families alone; and young children that aren’t getting the food they need to stay healthy.
Look at the statistics and they tell the same story. Malnutrition is disproportionately affecting children and pregnant and lactating women - recent UN reports estimate that 385,000 children (that’s 1 in 5) and 90,000 pregnant and lactating women in north eastern drought affected areas are malnourished. The regions which are seeing the highest jump in food prices are home to the country’s poorest – the price of staple foods has tripled in the areas where most people live below the poverty line. The poor are being hit the hardest.
One of the biggest challenges of providing humanitarian relief is ensuring that it gets where it’s needed most. And this couldn’t be more important in Kenya. ActionAid is committed to improving the quality of life of the poorest and most vulnerable people. Women, children, people living with HIV and AIDS, the elderly and people living with disabilities are always at the centre of our work. And in an emergency, the same applies. We are working alongside communities to identify the individuals that are suffering most and are in greatest need of our support.